The findings of a recent study by British medical journal Lancet which has identified suicides as the second leading cause of death among the young in India should lead to deeper analysis of the whys and hows of this phenomenon. It is indeed strange that the Lancet study is being projected as the first national study of deaths in India. If no worthwhile research on this has been done by a national agency, it is time the suicide issue is studied and its findings deliberated upon to find remedies to the extent possible.
It needs to be determined why annually, more than 40 per cent victims of suicides in India are from the four southern states of Andhra, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. Is it because ailments of the mind go untreated especially in the South because there is a stigma attached to them? All across the world people suffer from depression which is treated, but in India it usually goes untreated until it develops into a more serious form. A public education programme to convince people that there is nothing hopelessly wrong with being depressed and that there are remedies for it may be in order. The Lancet study would have us believe that the high suicide rates in South India might be partly attributable to a combination of prevalent suicidal thinking or planning and social acceptance of suicide as a method to deal with difficulties, but this requires to be studied more closely.
Another noteworthy finding of the study is that around half the 1.87 lakh people who committed suicide in India in 2010 consumed poison, mainly pesticides, to end their life. This underlines the need to ban the most toxic pesticides and to educate the rural masses about safe storage of pesticides. Another myth that the Lancet study exposes is that farmers are most prone to committing suicide. The fact that has come out is that over three in four suicide deaths in India occur in other occupational groups including the unemployed and homemakers. With Lancet having sensitised us, it is time the issue is deliberated upon threadbare.