Today is the World Suicide Prevention Day. By the end of the day, there would have been seminars, awareness rallies, talk shows, discussions, debates, political finger pointing and everything else associated usually with this day in the past plus of course experts advising parents to spend quality time with their kids so that they do not fall prey to the fatal charms of the blue whale.(Incidentally what happened to spending quantity time with children? Quality time so means very little time and how does one distil time anyway ?)
It would also have been pointed out that 200,000 thousand Indians commit suicide every year according to WHO figures and that each suicide inherently is an avoidable death.
We in India do not get the right answers because we keep on asking the wrong questions. In the wake of a suicide there is a strong and urgent impulse to project its sole causation to something or preferably somebody out there. We do it because then it ceases to be our responsibility and we are saved from asking ourselves uncomfortable questions. Hence, the National Crime Research Bureau lists causes of suicides committed in 2015 as ‘non-settlement of marriage’, extra-marital affair, property dispute, failure in examination, failure in love affair, failure in business etc etc. The category of ‘Cause Unknown’ is just 12%.Rest all stands ‘explained’ The same defence mechanism of projection by the society is responsible for looking for an ‘abettor’ in all cases of suicides .
To say only on the basis of temporal proximity that these were the causes of suicide in the sense that had these factors been absent the person would not have committed suicide is not logical. It is like saying in the case of man being run over after a breakfast of scrambled eggs, that scrambled eggs are cause of being run over.To say that such common life situations could on their own lead a person to suicide would mean that most people will die of suicide sooner or later. Suicides are multifactorial and the most important cause is psychological vulnerability, most other so called causes being the triggers. In a very large number of cases of suicides there are no triggers at all.
There is no doubt that farmers’ distress is one of the most tragic fact of our times and needs the government’s support on a priority basis. It is also important that a focus on the topic has brought much needed help and some infusion of ideas to reform the agricultural sector. But to say that farmers suicide are disproportionate in numbers as compared to any other occupation, is not just not correct but comes in the way of offering mental health solutions to farmers themselves. Financial support is necessary to provide succour to the devastated family but will do nothing to prevent future suicides. As per an affidavit submitted by the central government to the Supreme Court, farmers’ suicides constituted just 9.4% of total suicides in the country. When an issue becomes as emotive and as political as farmers’ suicides, a rational pursuit of solution is the first casualty and the intended beneficiaries first victims.
Does it mean that everybody who commits suicide has mental health issues? Not at all. Choosing to terminate one’s life in the face of a painful terminal illness or a major unavoidable adversity as a matter of conscious choice does happen but with much less frequency.
Prevention of suicide starts with asking the right questions and providing mental health services both as part of the general health services and as standalone service . All cases of suicide are subject to a post- mortem examination by law. What is also required and eminently feasible is a psychological autopsy in all cases of suicide. This data when compiled will give precise answers much better than the kite flying going on currently. Sometimes being politically incorrect is the only correct way.
“So, we need to evaluate more in depth each suicide and get to know the other causes like emotionally disturbed individual , inadequate support and means of problem solving, depression and major life crisis. Every effort should be made to prevent suicide. This is responsibility of every mental health professional and the whole society”
Prof. Anirudh Kala is the Director of Mind Plus Healthcare.