Mumbai: A study conducted by the International Institute of Population Science (IIPS) reveals that nearly 58 per cent of the farmers in the 'suicide belt' of Vidarbha, Maharashtra, suffer from mental illness.
The study has been published in the international journal, Clinical Epidemiology and Global Health. To address this issue, medical experts and activists have showed concern that there is a need of recruiting trained counsellors in these areas to help farmers overcome mental health issues.
Nearly 300 houses in Vidarbha were surveyed by Priyanka Bomble and Hemkhothang Lungdim, the authors of the study. It was revealed that 34.7 per cent of the farmers surveyed suffered from somatic symptoms (a mental illness that leads to neurological issues, including body ache), 55 per cent complained of anxiety, 7.3 per cent showed symptoms of social dysfunction and, most importantly, 24.7 per cent were diagnosed with severe depression.
Hemkhothang Lungdim, one of the authors, said they conducted this study to find if illiterate farmers are more vulnerable to developing mental disorders compared to those who are educated.
More number of mental illness cases were witnessed among farmers ageing between 50-59 and cases of anxiety and depression are the highest among farmers who have borrowed loans above Rs 25,000 for agricultural purposes.
“Ninety per cent of the cases were due to financial constraints, which lead to developing anxiety and depression, which often drove farmers to commit suicide.
On the other hand, the study also revealed that the chances of developing mental disorder is directly proportional to the educational qualification of the farmers. The higher their educational qualification, the better is their understanding of economic crisis,” said Lungdim.
As per the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) in 2020, a total of 10,349 farmers and agricultural labourers committed suicide in 2018 across India. Maharashtra had the highest number of farm-related suicides at 34.7 per cent, followed by Karnataka at 23.2 per cent, Telangana 8.8 per cent, Andhra Pradesh 6.4 per cent and Madhya Pradesh at 6.3 per cent.