Suicides kill more Indian teens than any other cause

Suicides kill more Indian teens than any other cause

Suicide has claimed more lives of Indian teenagers than any other cause of death in the last one year, one of the world’s leading mental health experts said on Friday.

According to statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau statistics, more than 50,000 young Indians commit suicide each year.

“It is shocking to know that suicide is the number one cause of death in Indian boys and girls of 15-24 years of age,” Vikram Patel, professor at Harvard Medical School said at the ongoing World Congress on Adolescent Health here.

A nationwide survey conducted fives years ago had made a similar claim. It said suicides killed more people aged between 15 and 29 than any disease.

India is not alone on this unfortunate trend. Suicide kills more teenagers than diseases or accidents in some other South Asian countries, such as Nepal and Bangladesh.

Among the major public health challenges young adults face today are nutritional deficiencies, injuries — including self-inflicted ones — and substance abuse.

Patel also pointed out that “more than 75% of mental disorders have their onset before the age of 24”. However, India’s new mental health act, whose implementation rules are currently being framed decriminalises suicides.

Early-age marriage and teenage pregnancy are also major concerns for many Indian adolescents. “While there has been a 50% decline in early marriages and teenage pregnancies, more than 26% girls are still married before 18 years of age and 7.9% of all pregnancy cases are teenage pregnancies, and there is a high unmet need for contraception,” Manoj Jhalani, Additional Secretary in the health ministry, said.

“One-third of young women experience violence and 20% experience mental health problems. Over 12% tobacco users in the country are in the age group of 15-24 years and one-fourth in this age group use alcohol,” he said.

The mortality of adolescents globally stands at a staggering 1.5 million deaths per year. Unintended injuries such as road accidents and drowning are the other leading causes of death among adolescents, as well as self-harm, interpersonal violence and communicable diseases.

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