Lone family from central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district is in deep mourning at the moment. On Saturday they got a shock of their life when their 16-year-old son committed suicide. Those who know Shahnawaz Lone remember him as a boy next door: full of life and far from depression. But when he consumed some poisonous substance at his home other day, his family, relatives and friends were left shell-shocked. His extreme move made sense to none.
A resident of Zazna Ganderbal, Lone was rushed to District Hospital Ganderbal for treatment, where from he was referred to SKIMS, Soura. Later he breathed his last at SKIMS.
Soon after Lone succumbed, an analysis of sorts began. One question was at the centrestage: what drove a budding boy to such an extreme path? But amid sighs and sobs at his home, all logic and reasoning failed to answer.
This summer on August 22, when 5 suicides were reported in a single day in Kashmir, the ‘placid’ picture of the valley appeared unnerving. Today, suicide has become the second common cause of unnatural death in Kashmir. Lone isn’t, and perhaps, won’t be the instance of its own kind in the valley where 38% suicides have been noted last year in the age group between 15-29 years.
In summer 2013, Government of India’s National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) showed up with its annual report “Accident Deaths and Suicides in India”. The report revealed that the rate of suicides has jumped to 44.3% in 2012 as compared to previous year in Kashmir. “In 2012, 414 people committed suicide in the valley as compared to 2011 when 287 suicides were recorded,” the report noted.
The report maintained that 26.6% of those who committed suicide had received secondary school education. 21% had studied up to middle school level. 23.7% had received no education. 16.7% had primary education. 8.2% had pre-university education, 2.4% were graduates and 0.2 % had Masters or above education.
It is the same NCBR which recently revealed that Kashmir has a higher suicide rate than Uttar Pradesh and Bihar.
But the number of suicide cases recorded by local health centres is far more than what NCRB has revealed. In 2010, 248 suicides were recorded in SKIMS which escalated to over 1000 suicide cases in 2011, recorded collectively at SKIMS and SMHS hospitals.
A study published in the International Journal of Health Sciences and Research in 2012 says that in 1989 suicide rate in the valley stood at 0.5 per 1 lakh people. When the same survey was repeated in 2010, suicide rate had risen to 15-20 per 1 lakh.
Another study conducted by the department of Psychiatry, GMC Srinagar reveals that on an average 3.5 persons report daily to SMHS causality with suicide, para suicide and deliberate self-harm (DSH) since last three years.
There are some well established methods behind the madness of suicide. Lone ended his life by consuming poisonous substance. In fact, NCRB report reveals that 33.3% suicides in 2012 were committed by consuming poison. 14.3% committed suicide by hanging. 19.3% by ‘other means’, while the rest by jumping into river, or from buildings, etc.
The facts furnished by the department of Psychiatry, GMC Srinagar reveals that the consumption of organ phosphorous like compound is the commonest mode of suicide followed by consumption of other drugs like benzodiazepines, tricyclic antidepressants etc.
Immolation and cutting throat have been found as the latest methods of suicide in the valley.
Dr Arshad Hussain, a noted psychiatrist of the valley, blames dwindling religious values, mushrooming of nuclear families, traumatic stress, poverty, unemployment, and domestic violence for the rising graph of suicides in Kashmir.
“One of the common emergencies in medical casualties of Kashmir today is suicidal behaviour,” says Dr Hussain. “This behaviour is an outcome of the situation in Kashmir, which resulted in turmoil, post traumatic stress disorder [PTSD], besides substance use.”
Understanding the menace
Emile Durkheim, the French Sociologist is one of the pioneers in the field study of suicide. Durkheim believed that suicide is an indication of disorganization of both individual and society. “Increasing number of suicides clearly indicates something wrong somewhere in the social system of the concerned society,” his compilation maintains.
He has classified suicides into three types: egoist suicide, altruistic suicide and anomic suicide.
Egoist suicide, Durkheim says, is a product of relatively weak group integration, “It takes place because of extreme loneliness and out of excess individualism.”
Altruistic suicide is a product of over integration of the individual into his group. “This type of suicide takes place in the form of a sacrifice in which an individual ends his life by heroic means to promote a cause or an ideal which is dear to him,” Durkheim defines. While anomic suicide is the type that follows catastrophic social changes.
“The pattern of suicides taking place in Kashmir today reveals that trigger is a multi-factorial one,” says Dr Tauseef Rizvi, a psychology professor at Kashmir University.
And what is that multi-factorial trigger?
“It is the loss of the traditional social norms, customs, cultural ethos and religious fervour which used to check evils like suicide from taking root in the society,” explains Zarief Ahmad Zarief, a poet and author. “The loss of culture has exposed the society to a greater risk, where materialism is breeding many menaces.”
The Last Word
Shahnawaz Lone proved one more addition to a fragile-hearted teenager who preferred death over life.
“Look the menace of suicide is very complex than it seems,” warns Dr Rizvi. “I mean, we have made social setup very confusing and complicated, which is compelling some of us to drive on suicide path.”
“In one word, the only way out, is to adopt a simple lifestyle.”