Youngsters' suicide major cause of premature deaths

Suicide, which is increasing in number among vulnerable youngsters in the adolescent stage, has become a leading cause of premature death in India.

India has an estimated 24.3 crore boys and girls aged between 10 and 19 years, which comprises 21 per cent of the total population. More than 33 per cent of disease burden and almost 60 per cent of premature deaths among adults are associated with tobacco smoking, sexual abuse and poor dietary habits that begin at adolescence.

Researchers have found that underlying factors like depression and anxiety become evident in early adolescence.

To tackle such adolescent problems, the Health Ministry plans to launch a nationwide information campaign in schools, using volunteers from the same age group, who would listen to problems their friends were facing and guide them to appropriate government health centres where counselling services and medical facilities are available to deal with such problems.

A recent epidemiological study by the National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences, found suicides are increasing at a rate of 5-10 per cent and that underlying triggering factors like mental disorders occur more often in girls than boys with gender disparity becoming evident in early adolescence.

A 2012 survey undertaken by a separate group of researchers, came up with a statistics of 187,000 suicide deaths in India in 2010 (115,000 men and 72,000 women) among persons aged 15 years or more. This is higher than the World Health Organisation's estimate of 170,000 annual suicide deaths.

The survey indicates suicide risks are more in the four southern states. Almost 40 per cent suicides among men and 56 per cent in women take place in the age group of 15-29 years.

The government health scheme named Rashtriya Kishor Swasthya Karyakram (national adolescent health programme) seeks to engage four teen age boys and girls along with each of 900,000 community health workers (ASHA) to talk to their peers and pick out those showing early signs of mental or any other behavioural problems.

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