India Accounts For 37% Female Suicides!

  • 28 Jun 2019

India may be excelling in many fields, including film production, and space exploration, among others, but there is one dubious honour it can do without - having the highest number of female suicides. 

According to a research published in the Lancet Public Health October issue, Indian women make up almost 37% of global female suicide deaths. 

As of 2016, suicide was the ninth leading cause of deaths in India, said the report. 

The problem is not confined to the rural areas. In many of the cases, the victims were educated with successful careers and were from middle class families, and in some cases, married, says Johnson Thomas, the director of Aasra, a suicide prevention hotline in Mumbai.

The expectations placed on such women - both to earn well, and maintain a home, could be a contributing factor, he claims. 

"Globalisation and the ensuing media blitz have increased the aspirations of women while society at large has failed to live up to the changes thereof, so there's a definite discord between aspirations and reality," he said. 

The lack of support from extended family members further compound the matter, Thomas added.

The suicide rate of women in India has indeed fallen since 1990, but has as fast as elsewhere in the world. 

Anna Chandy, the chairperson of the Live Love Laught Foundation, a charitable trust focused on mental health, however, begs to differ with Thomas on his conclusion on the socio-economic standing of suicide victims. 

It's just that suicide of educated women are better reported by the media, she said. 

Worsened by stigma

The stigma attached to suicide has resulted in the under-reporting of such cases, as many of the victims' relatives report it as accident, and drowning, for instance. 

The fear of being judged is one of the reasons a suicidal person chooses to call suicide prevention hotlines, instead of confiding in relatives and friends, says Sunitha Ramachandran, a shift coordinator at Samaritan Mumbai - a suicide hotline that has been operational since 1993. 

"Mental illness carries a lot of stigma in our community and a student or a young person would never want their peer to know their weakness, however close they may be."

Thomas thinks the solution to combatting suicide lies in training a person to overcome his or her difficulties, and develop resilience. 

This, however, does not happen overnight, says Chandy. 

"It will take years of awareness, sensitisation and education on mental health issues until it will become embedded in the DNA of our culture," she said, adding that at the end of the day, it all boils down to a person's attitude. 

A 2017 Bill that decriminalised suicide and attempted suicide was also so poorly implemented that even some hsopitals, and police stations are unaware of its real contents, the activists lament. 

Source: Al Jazeera
Photo source: Astro Awani

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