In a concerning development, the number of suicides on Mumbai's suburban railways witnessed a stark 21% increase in 2023, according to data released by the Government Railway Police recently. The report disclosed that a total of 121 individuals lost their lives to suicide, with 100 men and 21 women among the victims.
The data further revealed that 82 suicides were reported on the central railways suburban section, while 39 occurred on the western railway suburban section. Kalyan ( 43 cases) and Palghar ( 23 cases) Government Railway Police jurisdictions reported the highest numbers, highlighting specific areas of concern.
In 2022 only 100 cases ( 80 men and 20 women) of suicide were reported in the entire suburban section of MMR including 72 on CR and 28 on WR suburban section.
Numbers might be higher
A Government officials attribute the surge to the perceived low chances of survival on railway tracks, emphasizing the complex nature of suicide. However, a senior motorman, speaking anonymously, exposed a potential underreporting of cases due to familial pressures. The reluctance to categorize deaths as suicides stems from concerns over insurance claims, creating a discrepancy between official figures and the actual extent of the issue.
Noted psychiatrist Dr. Harish Shetty expressed deep concern over the alarming increase, describing it as a "serious warning bell for the days to come." He stressed the importance of addressing community disconnection and advocated for a more comprehensive approach beyond infrastructure development.
The broader context of rising suicide figures, with a 17% increase between 2020 and 2022, raises questions about the factors contributing to the distress faced by Mumbaikars. Dr. Shetty pointed to challenges such as the daily struggle of commuting, high living costs, poor emotional connections within families, and stressful workplace environments. He highlighted the disproportionate impact on men, emphasizing the need for a multi-pronged strategy.
Need for urgent action
"The situation calls for urgent action and a collaborative effort involving the government, mental health professionals, and community leaders. Increased mental health awareness, crisis intervention teams at railway stations, and training programs for railway staff are crucial steps in addressing this growing crisis," further added Dr Shetty.
Additionally, addressing socioeconomic factors contributing to distress is imperative to create a more supportive and connected environment for Mumbaikars.
"As the city grapples with this surge in railway suicides, there is a collective call for swift, comprehensive measures to prevent further tragedies and promote mental well-being in the community," said Dr. Shetty.