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THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, India , Oct 30 2013 (IPS) - When Sarath, 29, a security staffer with a private firm in Kattakada town in India’s southern Kerala state hanged himself at his office premises, his death became a grim reminder of what statistics in the country have been showing for some time now: more and more young Indian men are succumbing to socio-economic pressures and are committing suicide.
Sarath had been depressed for a while, everyone around him said, allegedly over debt arising from a bank loan.
According to statistics released earlier this year by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), which functions under the country’s ministry of home affairs, 135,445 people committed suicide in the country in 2012. Of these 79,773 were men and 40,715 were women. The eastern state of West Bengal did not provide a gender breakdown.
The NCRB attributed suicides among men to socio-economic causes; women, it noted, were driven to take their lives more by emotional and personal issues.
Women make up 48.65 percent of India’s population, numbering 586 million out of 1.2 billion people in the 2011 census.
Farmer suicides have long been the worst kept secret of this primarily agricultural nation. Drought, rising costs of farm input and debt drove 13,754 farmers to suicide in 2012, according to NCRB statistics.
“Men are still the primary breadwinners in the family. Any obstruction or crisis in the situation can compel them to take the extreme step of ending their lives,” Dr Sreelekha Nair, an independent researcher on social development issues based in Kerala’s capital Thiruvananthapuram, told IPS.
“Men are also probably the ones who interact more directly with public and social agencies that ensure social cohesion.”
Women are more prone to having second thoughts than men, Rev. Dr Jose Puthenveed, director and chief consultant psychotherapist at the St Joseph’s Guidance and Counselling Centre in the city of Kollam, 72 km north of Thiruvananthapuram told IPS. He was speaking from his experience at the centre, a non-governmental organisation working for the prevention of suicides in the city.
Nair, however, is reluctant to carry the socio-economic versus personal issue compartmentalisation for male and female suicides too far. She says more and more women now involve themselves in economic activities and have direct involvement in the community.
“Moreover, the so-called personal or emotional causes may originate in social or economic settings,” she added. She also said that in the present social context, men may not admit to social upheavals, and women may not be seen as stressed by economic issues.
NCRB data also showed that a large number of those committing suicides were in the 15-29 age group; young people made up 34.6 percent of the suicide victims in 2012.
“Love affairs, failure in examinations, sexual abuse, ragging, humiliation and family conflicts are some of the reasons affecting sensitive youngsters, pushing them to commit suicide,” Dr Jayapradeep, a clinical psychologist with his own practice in Kochi, told IPS.
“The real reason behind suicides is the inability of a person to overcome issues, problems, challenges, or a crisis which he or she may be facing,” said A.R. Suseel, lecturer in the department of counselling at the Kerala United Theological Seminary (KUTS) in Thiruvananthapuram. He is also a researcher in suicide prevention counselling at the Serampore University in West Bengal.
“Today, people do not share their problems with family, friends or well-wishers,” he added. “The lack of social, emotional and psychological support aggravates the state of mind of mentally fragile people,” Suseel told IPS.
Family issues contribute significantly to suicides: NCRB statistics show 25.6 percent of the 2012 suicides were on this account. Also, it says 71.6 per cent of the men who committed suicide in 2012 were married; the percentage for married women stood at 67.9.
“People are more self-centred today,” Sister Celine, counsellor at Kollam’s St Joseph’s Guidance and Counselling Centre, told IPS. “They inflate minor matters into big issues, leading to a crisis of the mind. Ego clashes only make things worse.”
Father Abraham Scaria, director of the Marthoma Hospital Guidance and Counselling Centre in Thiruvananthapuram, blames changes in the family structure – from joint families to nuclear units – for the growing number of suicides.
“Social interaction with other relatives decreases when people opt for nuclear families,” he told IPS. This leads to a feeling of isolation and a state of mental helplessness, he added. “At that stage, people think suicide is better than living.”
Preventive strategies implemented at a community level and identifying vulnerable individuals may be more effective than global strategies to arrest increasing suicides, Rajeev Radhakrishnan of the psychiatry department at the Yale University School of Medicine in the U.S. and Chittaranjan Andarade of the psychopharmacology department at the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS) in Bangalore, said in a study titled ‘Suicide: An Indian Perspective’, published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2012.
Suseel of Thiruvananthapuram’s KUTS stresses the need for a crisis management facility in all of Kerala’s villages. At 24.3 per 100,000 people, the state had the third-highest rate of suicides in 2012 after the northeastern state of Sikkim and the neighbouring state of Tamil Nadu, according to NCRB figures.
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