5,00,000 people all over the globe are reported to die of suicide every year.
1,00,000(20%) of them are Indians.
Suicides are under-reported by 20-100%. Which means it is more likely 8,00,000
people all over and 1,60,000 in India must be dying of suicide every year (taking mean of 20-100% reporting i.e. 60%).
Attempted suicides are ten times this figure. This means 8 million all over
the globe and 1.6 million in India attempt suicide every year.
We know how much burden is placed on care-givers and health-care delivery
systems when a suicidal attempt is made, besides of course its psychosocial sequelae .
Suicides and attempted suicides are reaching epidemic proportions and hence
qualify to be made the focus of public health policy in India and abroad.
98% of suicidal deaths have a psychiatric disorder. Therefore better and
more affordable psychiatric care is the first important step in suicide eradication. Depression is one psychiatric disorder
where suicidal threat is the greatest. Hence specialised Centers to treat Depression, like there are Heart Institutes, are
the need for the hour.
Suicide is also found more in the widowed, single or divorced, those with
alcohol or drug abuse, those with chronic physical and mental illness, and those living alone or in lodging homes. The key
factor is social isolation. Hence methods to reduce social isolation are the second important step in reducing suicide rates.
Social disintegration is another notable factor responsible for the rise
in suicides rates in societies. For example, Lithuania reported the world’s highest suicide rates following collapse
of the former Soviet Union. Similarly suicides are more common in migrants and changing populations, who experience social
disintegration (along with social isolation).
Hence to make society suicide-free, a three pronged attack is necessary :
1) Reduce Social Isolation.
2) Prevent Social Disintegration.
3) Treat Mental Disorder.
Moreover ,the attack will have to be mounted on a war-footing. The
need is to first of all identify suicide prevention as public health policy. Just as we think in terms of malaria or polio
eradication, or have achieved smallpox eradication, we need to work towards suicide eradication. Just as we have
got sensitized to the AIDS epidemic, we also need to be aware of the suicide epidemic raging all around us.
If that appears farfetched, just remember that man landing on the moon, wireless
communication, digital mobile communication technology, and the internet were all farfetched ideas once upon a time.
The need is to become aware of the problem, not get overwhelmed by the enormity
of the task, and plan concrete steps towards achieving the goal of making society suicide free.