Suicide is one of the leading causes of death in the world, and is, therefore, one of the major causes of concern in public health. India has sadly been labeled as the “suicide capital” of the world and has one of the highest rates of suicides in the world, nearly about 10%. According to WHO, this rate is the highest in the entire south-east Asia region.
NCRB data shows an increase in deaths by suicide, with 139,123 deaths in 2019. This data by itself is quite upsetting and alarming indeed. Things have only got worse after the induction of the pandemic the previous year. According to news reported in the nation’s English news media, there was a substantial rise in the number of people who died by suicide. States such as Bihar showed a frightening seven-fold increase in deaths by suicide. This can also be credited to a wider reporting of suicidal deaths, especially after the demise of the actor Sushant Singh, who also died by suicide. Metropolitan cities such as Delhi, Mumbai, Chennai, Bengaluru are on top of the list, with the greatest number of deaths by suicide. Of course, greater reporting in big cities is one of the reasons for an increased statistic, the cause of concern should be the much under-reporting of such deaths in other parts of the country. The number of deaths by suicide in men is more than double than that among women, with men accounting for 70.2% of total deaths by suicide.
There are different causes for suicide that can include a pre-existing illness such as schizophrenia or major depressive disorder, which can be due to genetic factors, as certain people with genetic abnormalities are more prone to die by suicide or maybe due to a psychological factor such as an abnormal increase in stress due to emotional trauma. The latter should be a greater cause for concern, as the pandemic has resulted in the deaths of dear ones for many of us. Drug and alcohol abuse is also one of the factors for suicide.
What are some of the warning signs for suicide? Soft signals include cognitive distortions like thinking in a negative and hostile manner towards something, having a negative self-concept, being in isolation, and having a consistent feeling of hopelessness, finding no reason to live any further. To make things worse, the pandemic has resulted in people living in isolation. Although this is necessary to curb the spread of the virus, this may prove to be counter-productive for people, especially with suicidal ideations.
Social Media, for all its benefits, has also led to an increase in anxiety levels, especially among teens. Constant comparison of one’s body with others may strengthen the negative self-concept of oneself. In an internal report of Facebook-Instagram, it was found that 32% of US teens (girls) felt bad for their body and Instagram made things worse. 13% British and 6% Americans connected their desire to kill themselves with the use of Instagram. This should be an immense cause of concern because screen time has only increased during the pandemic, with children as young as 3 years old, spending hours and hours in front of their smartphones.
For all its complexities, it is important to note that suicide can be prevented. But this can only happen when psychological support is provided at an early stage. Looking out for friends and family members, therefore, becomes very important. Every life can be saved if they are provided with quality psychological support.
Aditya Jha is a student pursuing Psychology from Jamia Millia Islamia.
Edited by: Reda Aamna