Rising Suicide Rates In Kashmir

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Wahid Bhat |SRINAGAR

An increasing number of suicides is an alarming situation in Kashmir valley and a matter of concern these days. It is a social evil and threat to mankind and humanity itself as a whole. Suicide estimates suggest fatalities worldwide could rise to 1.5 million by the year 2020.

Doctors in Kashmir Valley don’t doubt that more than two decades of warfare have left the locals depressed, fatigued, traumatized and broken. The rate of suicide has gone up 26-fold, from .5 per 100,000 before the insurgency to 13 per 100,000 now, says Dr Arshad Hussain, a psychiatrist from the state’s only Psychiatric Diseases Hospital.

Nearly 24,000 men and women, mostly young, have attempted suicide in the last 17 years in Kashmir. Of them about 3,000 have been successful. Shockingly, most of them were between the age of 16 and 25. The figures point to a psychological catastrophe in the conflict-ridden Kashmir Valley.

According to studies 79 per cent of the urban and rural population in the Valley suffers from depression. Anxiety, stress and depression are some of the factors that contribute to suicide. Suicide is also more prevalent in teenagers and youngsters, especially females.’

Suicide is a slur on Society and even State of Jammu & Kashmir has not been left untouched by the menace of suicides. It is not unusual to see the reports of suicides in daily newspapers. The purpose of the present study is to find out the role of newspapers in highlighting the increased suicide rates in the Kashmir valley.

A doctor at SMHS hospital said “Women are far more sensitive and emotionally weaker than men. They have lesser tolerance levels than men, which explains why a higher number of persons who commit suicide belong to the fairer sex”.

They said most of the women, who committed suicide, were generally fed up with marital discord in their lives.

“There might be some young girls also who committed suicide due to failed family issues, depression. There is need for a support system to check the trend of rising suicides,” they added.

They said ready availability of pesticides and other drugs was also a factor in high incidence of suicides.

“Sometimes drug abuse, like anti-depressants, can also lead to death. In such cases, one cannot be sure whether the death was accidental or intentional,” he added.

A doctor at SMHS hospital said, “Persistent conflict between parents can affect a child’s mental health. It hinders emotional and psychological growth of a child and can impact their ability to form future relationships.”

“In extreme cases, they may develop suicidal feelings.”

“If we compare Kashmir to western societies the rate is less, but among Muslim societies the suicides in Kashmir are very high -the highest, she says. The reasons are turmoil, modernization, unemployment, business failures etc,” she says. Suicide is haram-prohibited in Islam.

The psychological, social and financial impact of suicide on the family and society is immeasurable. Jammu & Kashmir is grappling with numerous issues from Insurgency to illiteracy to unemployment and other health related issues and hence, suicide is accorded low priority in the competition for meager resources.

Even though, Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India will be providing assistance of Rs 8.50 crore to the state government for the up gradation of academic, clinical and diagnostic facilities at the Psychiatric Hospitals in Srinagar and Jammu, but given the enormity of the problem combined with the paucity of mental health service there is immediate need to support and promote NGO’s that work in the field of suicide prevention. The NGO’s through their suicide prevention centers can undertake the task of informing and educating the public about the problem of suicide through various mass media like television, radio, newspapers, magazines, etc.

The humane touch and elderly advice of the personnel of these centers can help a lot on providing solace to the individuals. Since these Organizations are in better position to help in promoting public education about suicide they are quite successful in bringing down suicide rates, for example in Great Britain, the suicide rate is said to have gone down ever since the ‘Samaritans’ Organization came into existence and continued their activities in this field.

Reducing suicide requires a collective, concerted effort from all groups in the society. It high time for Jammu & Kashmir Government to initiate a Mental Health Programme which involves reducing the availability of and access to pesticides, reducing alcohol availability and consumption, promoting responsible media reporting of suicide and related issues, promoting and supporting NGOs, involving religious leaders, improving the capacity of primary care workers and specialist mental health services and providing support to those bereaved by suicide, providing psychiatric evaluation and treatment to people who have attempted suicide, training teachers, police officers and practitioners of alternative system of medicine and faith healers. All these steps can help to mitigate the problem of suicides in Jammu & Kashmir.