B'luru, Chennai rate of suicide alarming

It is a matter of grave concern that Chennai and Bengaluru remain at the top of the list of India’s metros with regard to the number of people who commit suicide. According to the recently published Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2015, of the 19,665 people in 53 metro cities who committed suicide in 2015, a total of 2,274 were from Chennai and 1,855 from Bengaluru. The situation in Chennai is particularly worrying: not only did it register the largest number of suicides in 2015 but also, suicides saw an increase from the previous year, albeit a small one. The number of suicides in Bengaluru dipped by 2.7% over the previous year, while that in Delhi and Mumbai fell by 16% and 6%, respectively. The number of suicides in metro cities has been fluctuating in recent years; it rose sharply from 19,120 in 2012 to 21,313 in 2013, then declined to 19,597 in 2014 and rose again in 2015. The figures indicate that family problems other than marriage-related issues accounted for 34% of those who committed suicide in the metros. Marriage drove 5.2% of those who committed suicide to take that extreme step. Suicide statistics for Mumbai and Bengaluru, which see high migration from the rest of the country, indicate that unemployment drives many people to take their lives. Millions escaping the agrarian crisis in rural India, debt burden, joblessness in small towns, etc, arrive in Mumbai and Bengaluru with big dreams. But often, these dreams are dashed pushing many
over the brink and driving them to commit suicide.

Suicide is a major problem confronting India today. Its incidence can be expected to increase in the coming years especially in the context of rising expectations, rapid social change, mounting personal and professional stress, and erosion of traditional sources of support. Unfortunately, there is very little understanding of the problem. Its symptoms often go unnoticed. It is therefore important that the government and health care professionals work together to create awareness of the problem, its symptoms and treatment.

Often people dismiss an attempted suicide as a failed ‘stunt’ by an ‘attention-seeking individual’. It is not. An attempted suicide is a cry for help that deserves immediate and professional help. An important obstacle in the way of prevention of suicide is the social stigma attached to it, which inhibits people from seeking treatment.  While the decriminalisation of suicide in India is an important step, it needs to be followed up with better access to mental health­care, inexpensive treatment, insurance facilities, etc. It is possible to tackle the hopelessness
that is driving urban Indians to take their lives. But a comprehensive prevention strategy must be implemented.

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