Violence-induced trauma leads to spike in suicides in J & K

Violence-induced trauma leads to spike in suicides in J & K

Suicide was rare in Kashmir two decades back. But now it has become a serious problem. Killings in militancy-related incidents top the list of unnatural deaths followed by suicides.

The worrying factor is that most of those who commit suicide are in the age group of 16 to 25.

Experts point out that violence-induced trauma, declining religious values, lack of religious education, nuclear families, ever-increasing expectations, unemployment, dealing with chronic conflict stress and growing mental health problems, failed love affairs, fear, stress and tension are some of the reasons for spike in suici­des and attempted suicides.

Till late 1980s, Kashmir, with Muslims being majority, had lowest rate of suicide in whole India at (0.5/100,000), comparable to Kuwait with 0.1/ 100,0000, the lowest in the world.  Between January 1 and March 31 this year,  over 100 attem­pted suicides were reported at Valley’s premier SMHS Hospital.

Of them, nearly 80 per cent were in the age group of 16 to 25. The actual number could be higher as several cases are not reported by relatives due to social and religious stigma atta­ched to it. “The number of  unreported cases could be more than 50 per cent of reported ones,”  Dr Arshid Hussain, Consultant, Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College, Srinagar, told Deccan Herald.

He said on an average one in eight attempted suicide cases will die. Most of the victims consume pesticides as they are readily available. 

Dr Hussain, who has conducted resea­rch on Muslim suicides in Kashmir, said: “We were receiving over 100 suicide attempt cases in a month at SMHS Hospital till 2006. After that, the number  dropped as only referral cases from dist­rict hospitals come here for treatment.”     
 
According to Dr Hussain, on an average three cases of suicides or attem­pted suicides or attempts to harm themselves are reported at SMHS Hospital causality every day. “Most of the people who commit suicide are males in the age group 25 and 34. But many attem­pts are made by adolescent females,” he added.

In one family in Kupwara district, two teenagers committed suicide and the doctors intervention prevented the third death. After her husband’s death, who was the sole bread winner, in a cross fire,  the woman had gone into depression and struggled to bring up three daughters.

Two daughters had to work in carpet industry as labourers to eke out a living. They ended their lives as they thought that their life would not change. On hearing this, the doctors asked the woman to bring her youngest daughter.  Examination revea­led that she was also under severe  depression.

 “She had suffered trauma from early childhood due to the killing of her father and wasn’t able to express it to anyone. She had developed suicidal tendencies as she thought it was the only way out for her problems. With treatm­ent two lives could have been saved,” Dr Mushtaq Margoob, Head of the Department in Government Psychiatric Diseases Hospital in Srinagar,  who treated the girl, told Deccan Herald.

Ibrahim (name changed), a 24-year-old computer engineer from downtown Srinagar, committed suicide in 2009. Only son of his parents, Ibrahim, according to the psychiatrist who was treating him, suffered from depression in 2001. Ibrahim, who was from a business family, overcame depression. Seven years later, the problem recurred despite being on medication. The family changed the doctor but the boy ended his life by hanging in January, 2009.

The suicide of Ibrahim was a shock for his parents and younger sister.  The family was taken aback by the development that followed. The Imam of the local mosque refused to offer his Jinazah (funeral prayers). Ibrahim’s friends had to arrange an Imam from  another locality for funeral prayers.

After this incident, the family sold the house and moved to a new place. “I had lost my only son. But our neighbours instead of sympathising were making our life hell by asking nasty questions. We couldn’t tolerate the humiliation and decided to move,” Ibrahim’s mother said.

Now, the family has a new worry. “Our conc­ern is the marriage of the daughter. It will hamper chances of getting a good mat­ch for her if people come to know that my son had committed suicide,” she said.

Dr Margoob said: “There are over one million people suffering from depression in Kashmir and more than a lakh of them think of ending their lives. It is a matter of great concern rather than a big challenge,” he said.

Dr Margoob stressed spirituality can help in dealing with problem. “Religious leaders have a strong role to play to make the suffering society free from the miseries of depression, drug-abuse and other social ailments.

The element of spirituality, which is almost inherent in way of everybody’s life, is unfortunately not a priority in present-day materialistic Kashmir. Clergy here has a role to play,” Dr Margoob added.

Dr Muzaffar Khan, Valley’s only clinical psychologist,said that there was
immediate need to open suicide prevention centres in Kashmir if the suicide rate has to be brought down. “The centres should function under the strict supervision of fully trained psychiatrists or clinical psychologists,” Dr Khan said.

He felt that a 24-hour helpline functioning  in Bangalore should be replicated in Jammu and Kashmir.

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