Ujjain (Madhya Pradesh): “India holds the record of the highest number of deaths by suicide and two-thirds of them are youths. Nearly 150 million Indians need active psychological intervention. However, the prevalence rate is much more and about one-sixth of all suicides are said to be caused due to mental health issues,” said Dr Naresh Purohit, advisor of the National Mental Health Programme.
Sharing his deep concern about the rise in suicide cases, Dr Purohit told Free Press that suicide is a major public health issue which needs prioritisation by the government at all levels. As per World Health Organisation (WHO), there is a death by suicide every 40 seconds. The number of people affected by suicide is enormous. For every death which takes place owing to suicide, there are about 60 people who are impacted due to the loss of a loved one and more than 20 who attempt suicide.
Dr Purohit pointed out that the recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report stated that 1.64 lakh people died by suicide in 2021 and in 2019 suicide was the third leading cause of death in 15-29-year-old females and the fourth leading cause for males of this age group. There was a 10 per cent rise in deaths by suicide during 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic and consequent lockdowns led to rising economic uncertainties and poor access to opportunities.
He pointed out that the reasons that push youngsters for attempting suicide are severe depression, traumatic stress, interpersonal problems, failed marriages, unemployment, financial issues, academic failure and substance or alcohol addiction. He said that social media platforms have evolved expeditiously in the last decade both in terms of content and how the users interact with it. It has become such an indispensable part of our lives and it has started to dictate our lives.
Dr Purohit described it as unfortunate that several young minds are falling prey to it. They look at the ‘happy pictures and posts’ of their friends and start comparing their lives. These juxtapositions induce negative emotions and cause dissatisfaction and lead to suicide. He revealed that according to the WHO, there are less than 4,000 mental health professionals in India. This translates to only one mental health professional for every four lakh people.
“Owing to the fear of being judged, medical students hardly opt to pursue psychiatry. The government needs to address this at the earliest by organising awareness campaigns in remote regions and by offering incentives to the students who are willing to take up the subject,” Dr Purohit said. He averred that the issue of suicide prevention needs a multi-sectoral and multi-stakeholder effort and in this regard, a National Suicide Prevention Policy can act as a guiding document. At the same time, a community-based and public health approach is essential for ensuring suicide prevention in the country.