Suicide is now seen much more as a sociological problem than one relating to an individual.
This phenomenon is growing in India with the latest figures showing a 28 per cent jump over the past 10 years.
In 1997, 95,829 people committed suicide and by 2007 the number of persons taking their own lives went up to 122,637, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
The NCRB says Maharashtra, followed by West Bengal, Andhra Pradesh, Tamil Nadu and Karnataka, registered consistently higher numbers of suicidal deaths over the past few years and accounted for 10 per cent or more of the total suicides reported in the country during 2005-07.
Puducherry reported the highest rate of suicide in 2007 (48.6 per 100,000 people) followed by the Andaman and Nicobar Islands (38.5) while the all-India rate was 10.8 in 2007 compared to 10.5 during 2006.
Family problems and illnesses were two major factors in this, accounting for more than 22 per cent of the suicides during the years 2005-07. In 35 per cent of the cases, people took poison, while 32 per cent hanged themselves.
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), suicide is now seen in South East Asia as a major public health problem. “Cumulative research, media reports and anecdotal evidence over the past three decades reveal that suicides are an emerging epidemic the world over.”
WHO says those who commit suicide give early indications of doing so. In India, 10-20 per cent of those who died this way had seen a physician a few days before taking the step.
Psychological counsellor Neera Jain said: “The disintegration of the joint family has removed the support system for the individual at times of emotional and psychological crisis.”
The president of the International Association of Suicide Prevention (IASP), Brian Mishara, said: “More than a million people worldwide die by suicide each year.”
Mishara says that 60 per cent of suicides now occur in Asia, with China, India and Japan accounting for 40 per cent. “Timely corrections of mental health issues and healthy lifestyles can be part of a multi-pronged approach," said Dr Sameer Malhotra, head, division of psychiatry and psychotherapy, Fortis Hospital.
S.K. Chaturvedi, head of the department of psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bangalore, said, “We encourage them to share their problems and feelings with us, and try to assess their situations.
Sometimes if we find that the patient is at great risk of committing suicide, we admit them in the hospital.”
NIMHANS sees nearly 500 people with emotional, sexual and social problems daily, he said.
One thing is certain: this form of death is the most difficult one to prevent.