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De-Stigmatizing Suicide And Mental Health In India

About 800000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, of these 135,000 (17 per cent) are residents of India

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According to a report by National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (NIMHANS) at least 13.7 per cent of India’s population has various mental disorders; 10.6 per cent of them require immediate interventions. Among these, while about 10 per cent of the population suffers from common mental disorders, about 1.9 per cent is afflicted with severe mental disorders.

About 800000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, of these 135,000 (17 per cent) are residents of India, a nation with 17.5 per cent of world population. India has one of the highest suicide rates in the world among the youth aged from 15-29.

Starting from the benign youth, academics have proven to be one of the top-most reasons of students committing suicides. Owing to the Indian education system, many children have lost their lives under the pressure to score well and to live up to their parents’ expectations. The rising incidents of suicide in educational institutes are alarming pointing to a fatal flaw in the ongoing education system.

Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end here. Much of India’s youth aging 21-25 have been struggling with unemployment, Sikkim being the state with highest suicide rates for the same reason. It might not be strange to know that many other reasons concerning suicide are domestic violence among women, alcoholism, matters related to love affairs and financial reasons, but what will surprise you is that the biggest reason for suicide in India is mental disorders.

It is high time now that we break the ice and realize that mental health is real and that their struggles are equally real, in spite of the fact that their struggles might exist for them only. Among those who committed suicides, about 8 per cent were schizophrenic and about 25 per cent of suicides in Chennai were due to mood disorders.

The state of mental health in India is highly alarming and calls for immediate help. Statistics show that India is so much scarce of psychologists that there are only three psychiatrists to deal with about a million populations. This being the state, I believe that we, as individuals, must take responsibility and make little efforts to make the present scenario a little better.

Given the fact that the layman is not always qualified enough to counsel people, and advising them might prove to be fatal, the best way to prevent suicide is to talk to those who you think are likely to commit suicide. Look for warning signs - the people who are likely to attempt suicide are usually depressed, and are constantly thinking, or talking about death. They show signs of helplessness and talk like they have given up on hope, as well as life. When you find people talking this way, make sure you ask them about the same and let them know that they are not alone. You have to take the risk of asking them, for it is the only way you can encourage them to seek to counsel instead of committing suicide.

Currently, mental health organizations have been taking measures to remove the stigma attached to the issue. On 27 March 2017, Narendra Modi urged Indians to talk about depression and mental illnesses, and seek help if needed. In the attempt to make people aware, people have been speaking about it openly, writing off blogs, and even getting them rid of the stigmatization of mental illnesses. Deepika Padukone is one such celebrity, who came out in the open about her battle with depression and eventually ended up opening a foundation for the same.

The latest fad among the youth has been that of the Blue Whale Challenge which not only promotes suicide but threatens the players to end their lives, even if they do not wish to. The game asks the players to complete 50 challenges, one challenge per day, the last one being suicide. In these 50 days, they ask them to perform self-harming tasks and make the players watch horror movies in the middle of the night. The game intends to play with the young minds and manipulates them in such a way that they end up killing themselves.

The game which is responsible for over a hundred suicides over the world has spread its scare in India as well, leading to at least ten deaths in the country. Due to this erratic mode of killing oneself, there have been various appeals from across the country to get this game banned, and measures are being taken for the same. However, parents are also requested to keep a check on their wards’ activities on the internet and their behavior to prevent any more cases of the same sort. The students are also being counseled in the school for the same. A Google Trends report for the last 12 months showed that India had seen the highest number of searches related to the Blue Whale Challenge in the world!

This game, even though extremely harmful, is spreading like wildfire. The effects of this game are purely mental, hence proving the fact that the struggle for mental health is, in fact, real. It is therefore requested to one and all, to not take mental health and related issues lightly, for the consequences can be dreadful.

On the world suicide day, take a pledge, to try and prevent at least one incident of suicide, if you foresee any, and encourage counseling. On your part, you can act and speak for the issue. You can begin by showing sensitivity towards mental health; stop labeling people as ‘crazy’ or ‘mental’ for that stigmatizes it; stop gossiping about it as if it’s a secret; lastly, encourage people to consult a therapist.

With Inputs From Shruti Gupta - A Psycology Intern With E-Wellness Expert

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

Shiva Raman Pandey

He is CEO of eWellness Expert, an Online Mental Health platform

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