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Many times, a broken heart can kill

Contrary to popular belief, unrequited love is a more common cause of suicide among teens and young people in India than exam or job pressure, reports Sanchita Sharma.

delhi Updated: Mar 18, 2008 02:01 IST
Sanchita Sharma

“HI. WHAT is the easiest way to kill myself?”

Arvinder J Singh got this chilling call from a young boy one afternoon at Sanjeevani, the Delhi-based counselling centre where she has worked as a volunteer for 20 years.

She has seen the number of suicide-related calls go up over the last two decades, partly because of easier access to phones but more because of the media flurry that accompanies each suicide.

“Because suicide is reported more, it is happening more. One person jumping off the top floor of a mall or the Pitampura tower is usually followed by a few more copycat deaths in quick succession. In most cases, people can visualise their intent after hearing or reading about it,” says Singh.

Contrary to popular belief, unrequited love is a more common cause of suicide among teens and young people in India than exam or job pressure.

On Sunday, a boy killed himself in Kanpur after shooting his 16-year-old girlfriend because their parents said no to their marriage. In Mumbai, a girl poisoned her friend and then consumed the same drink because she suspected her friend was having an affair with her boyfriend. The friend was declared brought dead by the hospital while the accused is in a critical state. On Saturday, a dental student hanged himself in Kerala and recorded his suicide on a webcam after a long chat with his girlfriend.

Whatever be the trigger, it is a combination of factors — emotional trauma, depression, academic stress and peer pressure — that make them crack because they cannot visualise a better future. Stress, says Singh, has always been there. “Students in classes 7, 9 and 11 are not under academic pressure, but they still commit suicide because they see their own or other parents go hysterical if their child loses three marks in an exam or dismiss teen romance as puppy love. It makes them clam up and bottle their feelings.”

“Most parents are physically there and even make it a point to talk to their children. The problem is they don’t listen. You have to realise that a situation like being dumped by your girlfriend that appears frivolous to an adult who has seen it all may be to hard to handle for a 20-year-old,” says Anthony Swami, a counsellor at Sneha, a Chennai-based suicide counselling centre.

“Suicide is a very impulsive act even when the intent and ideation has existed for a while. Most people who contemplate suicide give hints and indications, and if these are picked up by friends and family, the act can be prevented,” says Swami.