NEW DELHI: Suicide kills more people in India than HIV/ AIDS, Hepatitis or even most forms of cancers, a study jointly conducted by multiple health research agencies in the country has revealed.
The report prepared by the Indian Council for Medical Research and the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare also highlights that rate of deaths resulting due to suicide is about three times higher in all southern states and West Bengal in the age group of 15-39 years, as compared to other states in the country.
In 2016, while about three per cent of the total premature deaths in India were a result of suicide, the percentage of deaths resulting from self-harm was as high as over nine per cent in the five southern states and West Bengal.
In Tamil Nadu, for instance as many as 25 per cent of all deaths in 15-39 year age group are caused due to self-harm or violence while the rate is 24.4 per cent in Kerala. In comparison, the percentage is just 6.8 for Bihar while it is 7.7 for Nagaland.
Vikram Patel, a psychiatrist and professor of public health at Harvard Medical School told this newspaper over e-mail, “A major reason why suicide is a leading cause of years of life lost in these states is because other causes of death which plague northern states such as childhood infections, peri natal causes and other infectious diseases, are now well controlled."
“A second reason is that the drivers of suicide, for example, rigid social norms clashing with the aspirations of an educated and progressive youth, as well as the greater experience of stress related to the higher aspirations of youth, are also more common in these states,” he added.
“I am however, surprised that West Bengal is also in the list.”
N N Raju, senior member of the Indian Psychiatric Society and said that higher level of education and inability to deal with growing levels of stress in personal and professional lives could be the reasons why many youngsters are taking the extreme states in southern states.
“These figures are alarming and reinforce what we have been suspecting all along that development and high level of education and employment brings another sets of problems,” said Raju, who practices psychiatry in Vishakhapatnam.
“Large number of people in states like Bihar or UP struggle to make both ends meet while a significantly higher number of people deal with different levels of issues down south due to different social, economic and cultural reasons.”