There was this article in the Times of India last week which spoke about suicides as a major cause of death among the youth in India. According to this article India’s four southern states which account for 22% of the total population had approximately 40% of deaths due to suicides in 2010. The article also states that Delhi accounts for the lowest in terms of suicide deaths.
What was surprising however was the statistic that the deaths due to suicide in India were twice as much as those from HIV/AIDS and almost equal to that of maternal deaths. And interestingly, the percentage of deaths due to suicide among women is far higher than that in men. In terms of average ages of death of suicide victims the average age for girls was 12.7 years while for boys it was 18.6 years. And yes, risk of suicide was higher in rural areas when compared to urban areas.
I would like to say that I was shocked when I read this but I wasn’t ! I think these deaths are nothing but an indicator of the increasing stress levels among the youth in our country. If you think I am exaggerating I would ask you to just pick out the back issues of the newspapers on dates when the school public examination results are announced and search the newspapers in the following weeks for suicide reports. The correlation is something that does not need explanation!
The kind of pressure that parents and teachers put on young people in terms of achievement is just too much! No wonder these children crack under it ! And often it is not just academics, the overall expectations in terms of goal setting and its achievement in life make young people feel a deep sense of failure when they are unable to meet them. I think sometimes, that parents try to achieve through their children what they themselves were unable to or cannot..! Sometimes for those in the rural areas or those in poorer families the child who studies well is the only hope out of poverty ( or so the parents think).
While failure in terms of academics is one reason there is another kind of failure which also often leads to taking ones own life – yes the failure of a relationship or what is commonly known as “love failure”! While trying hard not to be judgmental I wonder if killing oneself because someone did not reciprocate one’s love or one was not able to marry one’s beloved is really worth it?
But if we look at it from our cultural perspective it is easier to understand. Most of these kids are brought up on a diet of films and pulp fiction and local folk lore that celebrate such deaths. And besides, few youngsters from our culture ( particularly those from rural backgrounds) may not understand that what you feel in your teens or even in your early twenties if often not love but your hormones acting up. Given the way our society functions, there are little opportunities for boys and girls to meet. So that one boy or girl who looks at you, reads your letters, responds to them, holds your hand or kisses you becomes THE person. So when something goes wrong with this (the other persons does not reciprocate or is forced to/ decides to marry someone else) then throwing oneself down from a bridge into a river, or drinking pesticide seems to be the best option!
Unfortunately, the opportunities for a young person to talk about their feelings of stress or the feeling of being let down in a romantic relationship just does not exist in our country. There are few people they can turn to other than peers who are often themselves going through such stress. So they do the next best thing –things that they see the heroes and heroines in films doing – killing themselves.
There are a few organizations that have suicide help lines to call but I am not really sure how many know about them and among those who know, how many actually make that call..
Suicide happens when one’s mind is in utter turmoil and when “ending it all” seems to be the only alternative. I am not a psychologist but I have read somewhere that if a person has someone to talk to at that point they can be counseled out of it. Of course the suicidal tendency may be endemic to that person but that is something that would require a longer term intervention like counseling and looking at how to address the conditions that may trigger such feelings.
About more number of women committing suicides – not surprising because a woman’s life has more stress and her coping systems fewer. In traditional families women are not encouraged to have friends outside of the family –someone she can talk to if she is facing a problem and someone who will keep that confidential! And then there is the issue about her “reputation” and her so called “virtue” –if she has been betrayed in love, has become pregnant before marriage or been raped- killing herself is the way she deals with it! Often, the way our society functions women do not have a way out of a situation - so they chose to take the way out of this world!
But what I have always failed to understand are the men and women who immolate themselves when some political leader is arrested ! Is such blind adoration possible? I don’t think so. I think these must be well planned incidents where the victim’s family is promised some money in return for a life! And then of course are those “honor killings” which are actually murders disguised as suicides- we need to discount those figures.
( In South India, SNEHA is doing a wonderful job providing support to folks in distress. http://snehaindia.org/index.php Hotline:91.44.24640050- thanks Bhavna for the information)