While mental health is still a stigma in the country, in what is unfortunate news, India accounted for 37 per cent of global suicide deaths among women and 24 per cent among men in 2016, according to a study published by “The Global Burden of Disease Study”. Published in the Lancet Public Health journal, the report stated that 63 per cent of all suicide deaths reported in India were in the age group of 15-39.
India is home to around 57 million people (nearly 18 per cent of the global estimate) suffering from depression, as per WHO. So it’s not surprising that suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the country.
Terming it a “public health crisis”, Professor Rakhi Dandona from the Public Health Foundation of India stated that there was an increase of 40 per cent in the number of suicide deaths between 1990 and 2016.
The report stated that a warning level of ignorance and stigmatization, family pressures, career, and financial worries, as well as the increasing influence of social media, are reasons behind the risk of high suicide rates in India.
Variations in suicide rates
The study found wide variations in suicide death rate across states in India. Karnataka, Tamil Nadu, Andhra Pradesh, Telangana, West Bengal, and Tripura had high suicide death rates for both men and women, in addition to Kerala and Chhattisgarh which had high suicide death rates for men.
The suicide death rate for women in India was found to be 15 per one lakh women, which was twice the global suicide rate for women (7 per one lakh women).
Marriage can be a cause of suicide-related death in women
One leading cause of suicide amongst women in India could be attributed to marriage. The study stated that married women account for high proportion of suicide deaths in India.
“Marriage is known to be less protective against suicide for women because of arranged and early marriage, young motherhood, low social status, domestic violence, and economic dependence”, the report stated.
It needs immediate attention in case of men
Dr Dandona stated that the high suicide-related death rate among men in India has not improved over time and needs immediate attention. “Personal and social reasons, financial problems, poor health are known as major reasons of suicide in India and the most-used means of suicide are poisoning, drug overdose and hanging, as known from previous research”.
Suicide death rate is increasing in the elderly
The study found that the suicide death rate is increasing in the elderly, especially among those above the age of 80 years. “For the elderly, social isolation, depression, functional disability, and the feeling of being a burden on their family have been cited as reasons for suicides globally. However, not much is known about reasons for suicides in the elderly in India”, Dandona said.
With cases of suicide on the rise and the subject of mental health constantly pushed into a corner, there is an urgent need for everyone to come together and address the issue at large.