is estimated that over 100000 people die by suicide in India every year. India alone contributes to more than 10% of recognised suicides
in the world. ...
- Out of every three cases of suicide reported every 15 minutes in India,
one is committed by a youth in the age group of 15 to 29.
- In the Union Territory of Pondicherry, every month at least 15 youths between the ages of 15 and 25 commit
- In 2002, there were 10,982 suicides in Tamil Nadu, 11,300 in Kerala, 10,934 in Karnataka, and 9,433 in Andhra Pradesh.
- In 2003, the largest number of farmers -- around 175 -- committed suicide in Andhra Pradesh.
the country's first fully literate state, has the highest number of suicides. Some 32 people commit suicide in Kerala every
These statistics are startling. Southern India is the country's information technology
hub. The southern region is competing with northern India
to become the country's economic powerhouse.
But south India
has another distinction, one that it would rather not have: the region accounts for the world's largest number of suicides
by young people, according to The Lancet, the respected British
Some 50,000 people in the four states
of Kerala, Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh and the Union Territory of Pondicherry kill themselves every year.
This statistic becomes even more alarming when you consider that the total number of suicide cases recorded in the whole of
India in 2002 was 154,000.
The Lancet has published an authoritative study on suicides in southern India in its April edition. The study says the suicide rates
among young men and women in southern India
are the highest in the world.
The study conducted by the Vellore-based
Christian Medical College on teenagers in Tamil Nadu, especially in the Vellore region, found that the average suicide rate
for women is as high as 148 per 100,000, and 58 per 100,000 for men.
Worldwide, this rate is 14.5 per 100,000.
Also, in the West, men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women.
"This is just the tip of the iceberg,"
says Dr S K Vijayachandran, nodal officer for Kerala's district mental health programme. "It is not youngsters alone. More
people in the southern states belonging to every walk of life are killing themselves than in other regions in India."
For instance, the suicide rate in
Kerala was about 32 per 100,000 persons in 2002, thrice the rate in India
as a whole. "This is a huge problem," Dr Vijayachandran says, "which requires urgent intervention."
Experts like him put forward various
reasons for the dismal state of mental health among people in the South. Some of these reasons, which mental health experts
term 'acute stress factors,' include:
- Family conflicts, domestic violence, academic failures, and unfulfilled romantic ideals.
- Voracious appetite for high-end consumer goods spurred by moneylenders and hire-purchase schemes.
- The wide gap between people's aspirations and actual capabilities.
- The disintegration of traditional social support mechanisms as was prevalent in joint families.
- Emergence of a trend towards nuclear families, alcohol abuse, financial instability and family dysfunction.
- A growing population of the aged.
of crops, huge debt burdens, growing costs of cultivation, and shrinking yield.
Two years ago, the National Crime
Records Bureau noted that out of every three cases of suicide reported every 15 minutes in the country, one involves a youth
in the age group of 15 to 29. 'Youth and middle-aged (30 to 44 years) are the prime groups taking recourse to the path of
suicide. Of the total suicide victims, around 37.6 per cent are youths in the age group of 15 to 29 years,' the Bureau
said in a report.
Interestingly, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, which have much higher populations and far lower levels of literacy, report fewer suicides. In
2002, Uttar Pradesh and Bihar accounted for 4.8 percent and 1.7 percent, respectively, of
the total number of suicides in the country.
But not everyone is convinced by these
figures. "In northern Indian states, there is low level of registration of suicide deaths in police stations," says Sunder
Rajan, a retired Tamil Nadu police officer. "Therefore, no figures about suicides in the country can be relied upon for any
scientific analysis of the problem."
On its part, the National Crime Records
Bureau has one main reason for the increasing suicide rate in the country: 'Family problems.'
Psychologist Mathew Kurien of the Southern
Medical Centre, Bangalore, agrees. "In this modern age," Dr
Kurien says, "children are not brought up peacefully. They are under pressure to deliver at school; they are under pressure
to appear for competitive examinations. After they reach puberty, no one in the family gives them any advice about the meaning
Dr Kurien's argument is borne out by
the fact that every year, when the results of secondary and intermediate school examinations are announced, counselling centres
across the country are flooded with distress calls from students. "I get hundreds of calls from students who are contemplating
suicide because they could not achieve the good scores expected by their parents," says Elizabeth Vadakkekara, co-ordinator
at Thrani, a counselling centre in Thiruvananthapuram.
Vadakkekara says the only way to make
India, especially the southern region,
less suicide prone is "to make life easy." Of course, that is easier said than done.
WHO urges ban on some pesticides to curb suicides
HONG KONG, Nov 9 (Reuters) - About half of the people in developing countries
in Asia who kill themselves do it using pesticides, prompting the World Health Organisation to urge governments to ban or
regulate their use.
Jose Bertolote, WHO coordinator of mental and brain disorders, cited studies showing nearly everyone who committed
suicide acted on impulse and their deaths could have been prevented if lethal chemicals had not been available.
"We have very good studies interviewing people between the act of ingesting pesticides and their deaths. More than
95 percent are desperate when they learn they are going to die," Bertolote told Reuters on the sidelines of a suicide prevention
forum in Hong Kong on Thursday.
"They did not want to die, and that's the tragedy."
While people who take sleeping pills can be saved, those who use pesticides tend to be rural folk who would have died
by the time their families get them to hospital.
"If in despair you drink pesticide, you die in three hours and we know from surveys the vast majority of these people
did not have the intention to die and they did not know it would be so lethal ... all they wanted was some attention," he
In absolute numbers, China has the highest number of suicides in the world, with 250,000 cases a year, followed by
India with 87,000 and Russia with 57,800.
But in terms of population-based figures, Sri Lanka leads with 36.2 suicides per every 100,000 people, followed by
Japan with 34.21 and South Korea with 28.05.
More than 60 percent of suicides in China are committed using pesticides, similar to Sri Lanka.
In India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, between 40 and 50 percent of suicides are committed using pesticides.
Bertolote singled out organophosphorous-based pesticides as a main source of trouble. Although the substance has been
banned by international conventions, some countries, such as China, are still producing, exporting and using it.
In villages in many parts of Asia, cans of such pesticides can be found right next to bottles of condiments, Bertolote
"Governments have to ratify the conventions and ban class 1 organophosphorous pesticides, make them illegal, stop legal
production, curb illegal production and stop any smuggling of the product," he said.
For less toxic pesticides, he urged governments to issue better instructions on their use and storage.