World Suicide Prevention Day: How can India prevent growing cases of suicides?

Suicide is an important issue that India has failed to acknowledge properly. More than one lakh lives are lost every year to suicide in our country. In the last two decades, the suicide rate has increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000. And, lockdown has made things miserable for people suffering from mental health.

What’s the story? 1 in 3 suicides that happen in the world, happen in our country. Suicide is thorny, uncomfortable and awkward to talk about. Though it’s slowly seeing the light of conversation, it is not seen as what it is- one of India’s biggest silent killers. Suicide has been around for as long as human society, ranking among the top 13 causes of death in all ages worldwide.

Individuals who report having more friends and less subjective loneliness are less likely to have suicidal ideation or engage in suicidal behaviors, in spite of living alone.

With increasing urbanization and the breaking down of the traditional family system, social isolation has increased. Relationship problems and feelings of loneliness render particularly the migrant population vulnerable to high suicide risk. Individuals who report having more friends and less subjective loneliness are less likely to have suicidal ideation or engage in suicidal behaviors, in spite of living alone.

People at greater risk should be encouraged to receive support from family members, friends, community, mental health professionals, self-help organizations, or religious groups.
The same social changes and loneliness can cause depression and significant anxiety, and resulting insomnia and hopelessness are closely linked to suicide. Early recognition of mental health issues and their management is of paramount importance.

Alcohol and substance abuse may be the second most frequent psychiatric forerunner to suicide.

Substance use disorders are particularly common among adolescents and young adults who die by suicide. In addition to the increased suicide risk posed by alcohol abuse or dependence, alcohol drunkenness itself appears to play a role.

Hence, the availability and consumption of alcohol and other substances need to be controlled. People already dependent on alcohol and other substances need to be treated with the help of medicines as well as psychosocial support.

Students aged 16-18 are often subjected to undue pressure at home to succeed. When they don’t, suicide becomes a way out.

A common cause for concern is the pressure from parents to do well in these examinations, as scores in these exams often determine college admissions and subsequent employment opportunities.

This brings an undue level of anxiety in parents which is then translated onto their children. Students aged 16-18 are often subjected to undue pressure at home to succeed. When they don’t, suicide becomes a way out.

The Mental Healthcare Bill 2016 that was recently passed in Lok Sabha decriminalizes attempted suicide and thereby, appears to be a significant step towards an effective suicide prevention strategy in India. This is because those attempting suicide will be seen as suffering from some form of mental illness, once this bill becomes a law. 

Pearson Academy India has launched such a training, ‘Read the Signs’ for health care and school professionals that aims at creating the required sensitization among these professionals, in service of suicide prevention.

A more specialized form of gatekeeper training can be imparted to all health care professionals besides mental health professionals, and school professionals, as these professionals regularly come in contact with individuals, such as patients and school children, who may be at risk of suicidal ideation.

Pearson Academy India has launched such a training, ‘Read the Signs’ for health care and school professionals that aims at creating the required sensitization among these professionals, in service of suicide prevention.

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