31 children died by suicide every day in 2020, reveals govt data; experts blame Covid-19
An expert, speaking to news agency PTI, blamed the coronavirus pandemic and the resultant school closures and social isolation coupled with anxiety among elders for aggravating the mental health issues among children.
An average of 31 children died by suicide every day in India in 2020, according to the data by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), with experts blaming the coronavirus pandemic for accentuating their psychological stress on the children.
The NCRB data shows that as many as 11,396 children died by suicide in 2020, which is an 18 per cent rise from 9,613 such deaths in 2019 and a 21 per cent rise from 9,413 in 2018, reported news agency PTI.
The data mentions “family problems” as one of the main causes of these suicides attributing 4,006 deaths to it, followed by “love affair” (1,337) and illness (1,327). Other reasons behind suicide by children, as mentioned in the data, include ideological causes or hero-worshipping, unemployment, bankruptcy, impotency or infertility and drug abuse.
"While we as a society are cognisant of tangibles such as education and physical health for building national human capital, emotional wellbeing or psycho-social support often takes a back seat. The successively increasing number of suicides among children reflects a systemic failure," Prabhat Kumar, deputy director of Child Protection, Save the Children, said.
Kumar said it is a collective responsibility of parents, families, neighbourhoods, and government at large “to provide a conducive ecosystem where children can look forward to realising their potential and fulfilling their dreams for a bright future.” “Committing suicide, on the contrary, is an antithesis,” he added.
"Stigma attached to mental health and an abysmally low number of per capita mental health professionals demand urgent attention. Covid-19, and the resultant school closures and social isolation coupled with anxiety among elders has further aggravated the issue and brought it to the forefront. Save the Children calls for a collective action to nurture an encouraging and supportive ecosystem for children and youth," he added.
Another expert was of the view that the fear that the pandemic can impact children's mental health and psycho-social wellbeing has been there since the beginning of the outbreak of Covid-19. The NCRB data only provides further proof that the pandemic may have accentuated the psychological trauma faced by the children to a great extent.
"Children have gone through tremendous emotional stress and trauma due to home confinement and lack of interaction with friends, teachers or any other person in the position of trust due to prolonged closure of schools and limited social interactions," Priti Mahara, the director of policy research and advocacy at CRY-Child Rights and You, was quoted as saying by PTI.
Mitra said that many children also fell victims to a hostile environment at home, with schools as a means of escape not an option anymore. Many children also had to deal with losing their loved ones to the pandemic, further impacting their mental well-being. Some were reeling under the deepening financial crisis at the family level, she further said. Many children have also experienced huge uncertainty related to the completion of curriculum, exams and results, leading to anxiety.
"A huge number of children, especially the ones living under the shadows of multi-dimensional poverty, struggled with attending online classes and were majorly impacted by the digital divide, while many others suffered from over-exposure to internet and the social media and were subjected to online bullying and allied cyber-crimes," she said.
"All of these, compounded with an overall anxiety of the uncertainty of the future, must have been too much to bear for their young and tender minds," she added.
(With PTI inputs)