Illness and “family problems” are among the leading causes of suicide in India according to a report by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Illness as a contributing factor to poor mental health and heightened suicide risk comes as no surprise. A study published late last year found that men, but not women, experience a higher risk of suicide following injury or prolonged illness. This may tie in directly with economic prospects and poverty. For many, a life-changing illness may mean they are no longer capable of working. This leaves some people facing extreme financial difficulties, even at risk of homelessness. The cost of treatment – an expense many Indians cannot afford, in a country where the majority of health spending is borne by the patient out-of-pocket – can exacerbate economic circumstances. Some opt to take their lives under such circumstances.
Likewise, family issues are another major driver. For both men and women coming forward with mental health issues often sees them facing stigma, even from within their own family. These feelings of isolation contribute significantly to the pressures of those with mental health conditions.
Suicide and mental health problems are major issues in India. This situation is not assisted by the relative low priority afforded to these conditions and situations by medical authorities, in terms of both funding and human resource and infrastructure allocation. In addition, actual suicide figures are a point of contention within India, with sources conflicting on the numbers.
According to the NCRB, India’s suicide rate dropped by two percent between 2015 and 2016 – a decrease to 131,008 deaths in the latter year compared to 133,623 in the former year. However, World Health Organization (WHO) figures suggest 100,000 more suicide deaths than what the NCRB indicated in its estimates during the same time period – with 230,000 deaths recorded in 2016 due to suicide.
With one in seven Indians affected by mental health issues,, there are just 898 clinical psychologists and 3,800 psychiatrists available to respond to their needs. Mental health services are typically found only within India’s cities, forming a considerable urban/rural divide in terms of mental health treatment.
For the situation to be improved, and for India’s untold millions suffering in silence to begin to see hope for the future, resources must be allocated to fund mental health facilities and care. If the situation is to be improved, access to mental health services is key.
Contact details for mental health support in India can be accessed here.
If you are suicidal or experiencing suicidal thoughts, visit your nearest hospital or contact AASRA on 91-22-27546669 or Sneha India on 91 44 24640050 helpline. A list of other suicide helplines can be accessed here.