Every suicide death leaves a trail of inquiries and a profound sense of powerlessness. The sense of powerlessness is heightened by the continuous and unpredictable COVID-19 outbreak. What we can control is to do more to detect the crisis inside ourselves and others and learn how to avoid it. Suicide is seen as a preventable cause of death, and it is not necessarily associated with a history of mental illness. Social and global challenges can take their toll on our emotional and physical health. According to data from the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Worldwide Burden of Disease study, suicide rates for Indian men and women are 1.5 and 2 times the global suicide rate, respectively.
Furthermore, suicide is the leading cause of mortality for both sexes between the ages of 15 and 39 in India, most likely due to the enormous changes in job and family life that occur at these ages. According to NCRB statistics, more than one student commits suicide in India every hour, with around 28 instances recorded each day. According to NCRB data, there were 10,159 suicides among students in 2018, an increase from 9,905 in 2017 and 9,478 in 2016.
A research published in the Lancet Journal in 2019 found that one in every seven Indians suffers from a mental condition. Worryingly, the proportionate contribution of mental illnesses to the total disease burden in India has nearly quadrupled since 1990, according to the study. That implies 19.73 crore or 14.35 percent of the country’s population is suffering from one or more mental disorders.
According to the NCRB report for 2021, the number of persons who died by suicide increased by 7.2% over the previous year. Suicide has developed as a serious public health problem in India, including social elements, due to the enormous number of people who commit suicide. In India, around 64 lakh people committed suicide, a 7.2% rise from 2021. Daily wage earners accounted for 42,004 (25.6%) of all casualties. One in every four of the 1,64,033 suicide victims documented in 2021 was a daily wage employee. The main groups of persons who died by suicide in 2021 were self-employed people, jobless people, and those active in the farming industry.
In terms of the number of suicides recorded in 2021, Maharashtra led the country, followed by Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh. Suicides are clearly identified as a serious public health concern in India, and they merit further epidemiological investigation. The difficulty with seeing suicide solely as an individual issue is that we overlook the relevance of social influences that contribute to suicide. Suicide is a severe societal problem whose prevalence varies according to gender, age group, geographical dispersion, and the socio-political structure of society.
When the social environment fails to create a healthy feeling of purpose and belonging, which contributes to an individual’s sense of contribution and connection, the likelihood of suicide in a population rises. Suicide should also be considered as a multifaceted public and mental health issue with intricate linkages with the economic, social, cultural, psychological, and biological domains of individual and communal existence. Under-reporting of such occurrences owing to fear of social stigma and, in certain situations, to avoid court proceedings.
Suicide is a criminal violation under Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC). Fear of repercussions and the extra burden of dealing with police and courts sometimes leads to an unwillingness to seek treatment. Because of the societal shame connected with suicide, the NCRB drastically underreports the real number of suicides. Its goal is to give mental healthcare services to those suffering from mental illnesses. The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has established a 24-hour toll-free helpline to assist those suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, suicide ideation, and other mental health issues.
It is a Ministry of Education project known as the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. Its goal is to assist students, family members, and instructors with psychosocial support for their mental health and well-being during Covid-19. People suffering from mental illnesses need on long-term care. Many people are concerned when their counselling sessions are interrupted if they are unable to meet with their doctor or therapist. Help may be even more scarce in rural areas. Migrant workers who return home face exclusion and stigma. Everyone’s livelihood is on the line. Suicide can only be addressed with a proactive strategy. It required empathy and institutional assistance to be managed. The important components in coping with such situations are social awareness, as well as prompt support and counselling.