Suicide rates soar among India′s young | Asia| An in-depth look at news from across the continent | DW | 03.07.2012
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Suicide rates soar among India's young

Suicide rates in India are among the highest in the world. Most suicides occur between the ages of 15 years and 29 years, especially among women.

Last week, Paramjeet Chaabra, 18, hanged herself from the ceiling fan at her home in Noida, in the outskirts of the capital New Delhi when both her parents were away at work.

Her parents, both white-collar workers, have yet to reconcile the personal tragedy and had no inkling that their lone daughter, a bright and lively teenager, was suffering from depression.

Lethal pills

The ingestion of lethal substances is the most common method of suicide

The police said the motive for her suicide had yet to be established but after talking to her friends, they suspected her failure to get on an Indian TV reality show could have been a motive.

"We come across many such cases. Sometimes there are no warning signs of teen suicide," an investigating officer told DW on conditions of anonymity.

In the southern city of Bangalore, often referred to as the suicide capital of the country, another human tragedy played out in the posh outskirts late June when Manish Khullar, an IT consultant, consumed pesticide in the confines of his apartment. No apparent reason was discovered for Khullar's suicide.

On average, police stations across the city record at least two cases of suicide per day.

Adolescent suicides - a worrying factor

The harsh truth of the galloping number of suicides was brought home recently by the first national study of deaths in India published in the British journal "The Lancet." The paper said that Indian suicide rates were among the highest reported from any country.

Hangman's noose

Many suicides are invisible to the public health system

Worse, it said the deaths, like many in the developing world, had no certifiable cause and were invisible to the public health system and society at large.

Lead author of the study, Vikram Patel of the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, said that 187,000 people committed suicide in India in 2010.

The other findings showed about half of suicides were due to poisoning, mainly the ingestion of pesticides. Hanging was the second most common cause, while burns accounted for about one-sixth of suicides committed by women.

"Studies show that for every student who commits suicide, there are at least 13 cases of attempted suicide," Dr Madhu Gupta, a clinical and child psychologist told DW.

"Most youngsters who attempt suicide do not really want to die. Actually, they are crying out for help.”

Scant public health attention

Other specialists believed that academic disappointments, relationship failures and even psychological factors were associated with the soaring suicide rates.

"We have the largest youth population in the world. India's youth bulge is its demographic dividend. Failed aspirations, the inability to accept failure or loss in self esteem leads to dejectedness and then suicide," explained sociologist Jagdish Kumar.

The new study also pointed out that suicide rates were generally greater in the more developed southern states which have nearly a ten-fold higher suicide rate than some of the less developed northern states. Furthermore, people in the 15-29-year age group were more prone to taking the extreme step.

People working on computers in Bangalore

Suicide can be linked to high stress levels

There have been calls in the past by behavioral scientists and psychologists for government to introduce suicide prevention policies to save lives throughout the country.

Given that it is a leading cause of death of young people in India - killing twice as many people as HIV/AIDS and nearly as many women as annual maternal deaths - the issue should stir serious debate.

Author: Murali Krishnan
Editor: Sarah Berning

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