Why Kashmir’s Suicide Rate Is Alarming?

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by Er Zahid Hussain

Effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts.

Suicide is the leading cause of death, especially among youth. According to the World Health Organization (WHO) every year close to eight lakh people take their own lives and that is in every 40 seconds one person takes his own life. In India every year 135000 people commit suicide. Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. Suicide was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally in 2016.

According to a report published by the National Human Rights Commission of India, mentioned that 20,000 people have attempted suicide during the 14 years of socio-political turmoil in Kashmir. About 3,000 of them have died and most of them were in the 16 to 25 age group. In Kashmir, it is alleged that suicides are said to have claimed the second-highest number of lives after militancy.

The report further mentions that 575 cases of attempt to suicide were admitted to the SMHS Hospital alone. In the entire State, at least one suicide is recorded every alternate day and there is hardly a hamlet or mohalla that was left untouched by more than one incident of suicide attempts. Quoting psychiatrists, the report said that the incessant violence in the Valley has devastated the psyche of the Kashmiris and stress-related diseases have grown manifold across the social spectrum, driving people mostly youngsters increasingly to suicide. In the month of June this year, 8 people died in Kashmir valley by committing suicide.

Why suicide?

There are many reasons for people attempting suicide. These reasons may include parental pressure, academic failure, lack of moral and religious education, mental illness, traumatic stress, drugs, loss or fear of loss, relationship and hopelessness.

Suicides are preventable, however. Effective and evidence-based interventions can be implemented at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts. We can control suicide attempts by reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications), reporting by media in a responsible way, school-based interventions, introducing policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol, early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress, training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour and follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.

Suicide is a complex issue and therefore suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, agriculture, business, justice, law, defence, politics and the media. These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide.

There are some common misconceptions about suicide.

Myth: People who talk about suicide won’t commit it.

Fact: Almost everyone who attempts suicide has given some clue or warning. Don’t ignore even indirect references to death or suicide. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone,” “I can’t see any way out,” no matter how casually or jokingly said may indicate serious suicidal feelings.

Myth: Talking about suicide may give someone the idea.

Fact: You don’t give someone suicidal ideas by talking about suicide. Rather, the opposite is true. Talking openly and honestly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can help save a life.

Myth: People who die by suicide are people who were unwilling to seek help.

Fact: Many people try to get help before attempting suicide. In fact, studies indicate that more than 50 per cent of suicide victims had sought medical help in the six months prior to their deaths.

Myth: If someone is determined to kill themselves, nothing is going to stop them.

Fact: Even a very severely depressed person has mixed feelings about death, fluctuating between wanting to live and wanting to die. Rather than wanting death, they just want the pain to stop—and the impulse to end their life does not last forever.

Warning Signs

The warning signs of suicide are indicators that a person may be in acute danger and may urgently need help. Any of the following could be potential signs for suicide.

Talking about suicide:  Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”

Seeking out lethal means:  Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.

Preoccupation with death:  Unusual focus on death, dying, or violence. Writing poems or stories about death.

No hope for the future:  Feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, and being trapped (“There’s no way out”). The belief that things will never get better or change.

Self-loathing, self-hatred: Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and self-hatred. Feeling like a burden (“Everyone would be better off without me”).

Getting affairs in order: Making out a will. Giving away prized possessions. Making arrangements for family members.

Saying goodbye:  Unusual or unexpected visits or calls to family and friends. Saying goodbye to people as if they won’t be seen again.

Zahid Hussain

Withdrawing from others:  Withdrawing from friends and family. Increasing social isolation. Desire to be left alone.

Self-destructive behaviour:  Increased alcohol or drug use, reckless driving. Taking unnecessary risks as if they have a “death wish.”

A sudden sense of calm:  A sudden sense of calm and happiness after being extremely depressed can mean that the person has made a decision to attempt suicide.

(A resident of Magam, the author is currently pursuing MTech in Electronics Engineering from the Jamia Millia Islamia, Delhi.)

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