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COVID-19 lockdown impact: Bhubaneswar sees 45 per cent spike in suicide cases

Between March 23 and July 31, as many as 86 suicides were reported in Bhubaneswar Urban Police District as against 59 during the same period in 2019. 

Published: 25th August 2020 11:15 AM  |   Last Updated: 25th August 2020 11:15 AM   |  A+A-

death, murder, suicide, die, dead

For representational purposes

Express News Service

BHUBANESWAR:  A 27-year-old man of Unit IX area of Bhubaneswar went missing last Thursday and a few hours later, his body was retrieved from Daya river.

Police investigation revealed the man - an engineer in New Delhi - had returned to the city following the outbreak of Covid-19.

He was depressed ever since, his family said. He had allegedly jumped into the river to end his life.

The Capital City has witnessed a sharp rise in suicides if one goes by the statistics available with Commissionerate Police.

Between March 23 and July 31, as many as 86 suicides were reported in Bhubaneswar Urban Police District as against 59 during the same period in 2019. 

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Police investigation suggests that some of these cases are linked to economic distress while a few others are related to family disputes, says DCP Umashankar Dash. 

Experts are of the opinion that the pandemic has triggered uncertainty in the minds of many people and a 45 per cent spike in suicides is a reflection. 

Utkal University’s Psychology department head Bhaswati Patnaik points out that the health crisis has led to either loss of livelihood or pay cuts which has added to the uncertainty. 

Last week, a 23-year-old girl was found hanging in her rented accommodation at Pahala under Balianta police limits.

A native of Nayagarh, she was staying with a male friend in the city, police said, adding that both had lost their jobs at a mall after lockdown was imposed and were struggling to make ends meet. The boy had recently moved to Angul in search of employment and she allegedly took the extreme step in his absence.

After the lockdown was imposed, Patnaik, her colleagues and alumni of the Psychology department extended tele-counseling to people in need and found varied issues.

Several students approached citing they were not satisfied with online classes while adults expressed displeasure over livelihood issues and non-socialisation during the pandemic, says Patnaik.

The counsellors advised them to focus on the well-being of others, who are less privileged, which would empower them to handle the current circumstances.

City based NGO Manam Foundation, which works in the field of mental health and wellness, engaged four counselors to support people in distress and each counselor received 10 to 12 telephone calls on an average everyday.

It found that people were in economic distress and staying locked in a house with other family members, specially between mid-April and May-end, was hard.

“Callers used to express their lack of interest to live due to the uncertainty over livelihood caused by the pandemic”, said managing trustee of Manam, Anuradha Mahapatra. Some callers were upset over losing jobs while some others were on the verge of losing employment. Teenagers, on the other hand, found it difficult to stay with their parents and other family members.

Married women said they were feeling harassed due to the increased workload, and lack of support by their partners in carrying out household chores, which affected them both mentally and physically.

Between mid April and May, there were calls from people who had suffered self-inflicted injuries as they were upset over circumstances arising out of the lockdown.

Director and Vice Chancellor of National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Professor BN Gangadhar said, depression as a feeling is different from depression as an illness. “Bouts of depression have been more during the lockdown as youths were confined to their homes, lost jobs or faced pay cuts and were cut off from the society,” he said.

NIMHANS was the first institution to set up a national helpline for addressing psycho-social issues of people and it has clocked over 3 lakh calls from mid-March when the lockdown was imposed up to June.‘Healthy hobbies,’ keeping away from alcohol and drugs and exercise are three mantras to keep depression at bay, Professor Gangadhar advised.

What’s Worrying 

  • Between March 23 and July 31, as many as 86 suicides were reported in Bhubaneswar Urban Police District as against 59 during the same period in 2019

  • Some of these cases are linked to economic distress while a few others are related to family disputes

  • Callers used to express their lack of interest to live due to the uncertainty over livelihood caused by the pandemic

Between mid April and May, there were calls from people who had suffered self-inflicted injuries as they were upset over circumstances arising out of the lockdown

(If you are having suicidal thoughts, or are worried about a friend or need emotional support, someone is always there to listen. Call AASRA's 24x7 Helpline: +91-9820466726 for assistance.) 

More from Bhubaneswar.

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