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.

I think somewhere along the way, as a culture we should stop “celebrating” suicides. It is seen as something courageous and heroic. But nowhere do we mention the courage of the  people who have lived on and faced the problems dealing with them! These survivors are unfortunately not mentioned anywhere! 

( 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)


  1. 'I think sometimes, that parents try to achieve through their children what they themselves were unable to or cannot..!' SO RIGHT!

    It is shocking to hear youths commit suicide when they have so much ahead of them.

    I believe there is time for everything...children should be allowed to be children and learn on their own ability. Personally, i don't like stressing children much.

    The unhealthy competition btw families and people contributes to it also! Hey! what about the media? have you seen advertisements lately by schools?

    It is so disheartening to hear women commit suicides also....the society demands so much from us...to be a SUPER MUM! Have come to accept my limits and simply be content with myself.

    An enlighten post meera..weldone.

  2. well....apart from those sponsored suicidal cases that ppl do in front of lights n cameras for some known or unknown reasons, all other suicides are really a matter of concern for the society as a whole, the reason may be stress or whatever and i personally feel that what needed is proper counselling of all those youths who succumb to the pressure of their academic result mostly and counselling can help them to face the situation whatever it comes.....

  3. This is a very important post, Meera. Please do visit Indu Chibber's blog Jeete Raho and ask her in a comment to visit your blog. She will have good comments to accompany your blog because she is a counselor herself, as I understand. I hope you are promoting this post across the virtual world.
    Ok, now in South India, Sneha is doing a wonderful job providing support to folks in distress. http://snehaindia.org/index.php Hotline:91.44.24640050 I have talked to folks there and they handle calls very professionally. They are trained well. Do include their info in your post if possible! Thanks for writing it..hope others read it!

  4. Meera,

    I think almost everyone of us at some point or the other in life did think of ending life, whatever the reasons be. I agree with you that those who can not come out of turmoil in mind succumb to this urge. I have also read that article and reasons as told by you for young to commit suicide are factual. There needs to be a mass awakening movement to teach parents or guardians that world does not come to an end if child does not do well in whatsoever one is pushing the child to. To pull one from the brink depends a lot on parents, close ones and some outsiders who are open to approach by youngsters to discuss their problems. One need not be a qualified psychologist, if one is better it is, just common sense and experience of life matters a lot. We need to be open and approachable to youngsters.

    Take care

  5. Hello meera,

    It is a shocking statistics.I am truly surprised to know that younger generations kids who appear very bold are prone to suicidal tendencies. And it would have been better if you had found and posted the suicide helpline numbers in your posts..:)

  6. Rightly said- "let us not celebrate suicides". Rural youth have no emotional letting up, i think. They are brought up in an atmosphere that glorifies 'love affairs', puts unwanted stress in marks and parental pressure is just too much, they succumb easily. Good one, Meera.

  7. I agree the stress level has increased manifolds. Actually there is a problem in upbringing the kids. We don't prepare them well plus we put extra burden on them. About love affairs, I think parents need to be more friendly and understand their kids. There is nothing which is the end of world only when there is actually.

    BTW, the new look of the blog is really nice!

  8. The threshold is narrow. That is for sure. The mind plays taunt.
    Why people opt for the infernal step , sometimes at the slightest provocation by the vicissitudes of life is unfathomable to a lay person like me. Perhaps the shell is not hard as it should be.

    As you said social matters, artistic circuses in the form of films and celebrity idiosyncrasies etc push people towards the foolish step of taking ones life.

    The unnecessary pressure on the child by parents and tutors, peer pressure all alienate a child to extent that he/she succumbs.

    But I cannot understand the foolishness of self immolation for a political stand or for a political goon.How gullible people are!

    There is always a way out , a window open only if one has the patience and the courage to hang on and look around. Than running away into oblivion.

  9. @Saru so nice to see you here after so long... glad you like the new layout. You are so right -we do not prepare kids to face difficult situations.

    @ Anil, yes the shell is not as hard as it should be

    @ Cloud nine it is not just the rural youth- even urban youth have no emotional outlets.

  10. @ Jack yes, one does not have to be a psychologist- just being understanding is important

    @ Simply mee- sad to hear that these problems are there across cultures.

    @ Bhavna, thank you so much for your inputs. I will include that in my post @ Tomz you had also requested for the numbera which I am now including in this post

    @ Irfan, yes counseling is important

  11. Meera we can do with some more posts like this...you know even online counseling can deter suicidals,it is just the heat of the moment in some cases,which can be assuaged by anyone whom the person contacts....but some other cases are more deeply rooted....i have counseled many would be suiciders & averted the tragedies;but even after that, face-to-face counseling IS needed...unfortunately there is huge stigma attached to visiting psychologists or counselors & the wound is left to fester.
    Since we are at this subject i will give the link to my post on this topic so that if anyone is having suicidal ideation s/he might read it.
    It was very nice of you to write this post.

  12. Ah yes the link is http://jeeteraho.blogspot.in/2010/10/there-is-hope-only-if-there-is-life.html

  13. Namaste.....
    hmmmm life is at time overwhelming and not everyone can handle the pressures of dealing. Though many of us know, "this too shall past' and "no one condition is permanent," some cannot hold on till the tide is over, they become stuck in the valley of the troubles and feel defeated and lost and they give up thinking suicide is the solution.

    Stay blessed....

  14. I feel it is external expectations that let people give up...you can never underestimate the mental pain a person goes through b4 committing suicide..thresholds are different for different people..

    like the way you brought out the whole topic .. a very informative write up with lot of emotions.. well balanced :)

  15. suicide is a concern , imagine the stress a person is going through and how sad it is that we have not been able ot help them out ..


  16. Namaste.....
    Not all people are built the same way for some the pressure to keep up, rise, maintain become too heavy a burden. In the western world suicide amoung the young ppl mirrors that of India if not more. it is a sad reality


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