Suicides in India: Exploratory Essay

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Abstract

Suicides are in the top 3 leading causes of death worldwide. The purpose of this study was to identify the most vulnerable group of people who commit suicide. The present study is based on data from the Government of India made available at data.gov.in. It analyses the number of suicides among individuals involved with different professions. The analysis is based on the data available for various states viz. Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu over a period of 10 years. Big data analysis techniques were used to understand the association between different professions and suicides. The states were selected because of their population and Human Development Index. The results revealed that contrary to the popular perception, a greater number of suicides are committed by housewives and unemployed than the other groups viz. Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu. Housewives hold a large share of suicides followed by the unemployed and farmers. In Madhya Pradesh, a downfall was seen in the year 2005, but the numbers have only been increasing at an alarming rate ever since. In Kerala, the most vulnerable group changed from the unemployed to housewives, but an overall decrease was seen. Television, print, and social media focus on those involved in farming/agricultural activity and student section, but the study clearly indicates that housewives and the unemployed should be highlighted.

An Exploratory Analysis

Suicide is one of the leading causes of death worldwide. It being in the top 3 only gives us another reason to explore and analyze the cause/reason behind suicide and which group amongst the enormous population is the most vulnerable. The most popular reasons may vary from nation to nation, culture to culture, society to society, etc. For example, a completely developed nation, a frontrunner in the HDI might have a lower rate of unemployed suicides but another developing country might have contradicting results as compared to the other countries. A difference can easily be seen between the American Countries and Asian Countries. American countries have a higher number of divorces than Asian countries due to which the former might have reasons related to attachment, depression belongingness, etc. and the latter may face reasons such as stress and anxiety. In this paper, we tried to study the suicidal pattern over the course of 12 years in various Indian States viz. Madhya Pradesh, Gujarat, Kerala, and Tamil Nadu amongst different professions. In India, as the popular perception goes, the most vulnerable groups in society today are the farmers, unemployed, and students.

Over the last two decades, ‘family problems’ and ‘illnesses’ have been reported to be the leading causes of suicides. These two factors can explain nearly half the total number of suicides in the country. Other reported reasons such as poverty, unemployment, love affairs, and bankruptcy are very inconsequential causes of suicides. A news report for Madhya Pradesh stated that “Though many farmers commit suicide every year, the numbers have suddenly seen a surge after June 6, 2017, following protests in Mandsaur, where it turned violent.” It is worth mentioning that farmers commit suicide for miscellaneous reasons like family problems, alcohol, illness, marriage-related issues, property disputes, etc. which have no direct relation with the deceased being a farmer by profession. Amongst these various trends, cultures, and proposed reasons, an important question arises – What contributes to suicidality or what inflicts suicides? Any biopsychosocial model of suicide suggests the contribution of 3 factors: Biological or genetic factors (such as family history, inheritability of a psychiatric disorder, lowered 5-HIAA, etc.), Social factors or life experience (like supportive relationships, access to resources, abuse or another trauma history, impulsivity, etc.), and Psychological or Psychiatric factors (such as mood states, impaired problem solving, hopelessness, anxiety disorders, psychosis, eating disorders, etc.). According to Rudd (2006), an active suicidal episode consists of many such systems that interact with each other and sustain the suicidal state. These predispositions to suicide lead to effective triggers (perceived loss) due to which various thoughts, emotions, behaviors, and physiology come into play and lead to suicidality. Suicidal behavior is not a psychological disorder in itself. However, it is often a feature or symptom of an underlying psychological disorder, usually a mood disorder (Bernal et al., 2007). Estimates are that about 60% of people who commit suicide suffer from a mood disorder (National Strategy for Suicide Prevention, 2001). Suicide is perceived as a social problem in our country; therefore, mental disorders are given equal conceptual status with family conflicts, social maladjustment, etc.

Methodology

The purpose of this study is to highlight the suicide trend in India amongst individuals involved in various professions and to explore the vast possible reasons behind it. For this purpose, external secondary data is used which allows gaining information about the number of suicides in the Indian States between various professions. The data was made available by the Government of India at data.gov.in. The software used to assess the provided data is MS Excel which delivers a broader view of the trends.

Results and Discussion

Every year the state of Madhya Pradesh has a minimum of around 6000 suicide cases in total. While a downfall was seen in the year 2005, the numbers have only been increasing at an alarming rate ever since (fig 1.1). The increasing trends were recorded by housewives, students, self-employed, farmers, those involved in private sector services, and the unemployed (fig 2.4).

The number of suicides in Gujarat has been increasing ever since the year 2001 (fig 1.1). In 2007, a decrease was seen in farmer suicides which increased again in the further years and reached approx. 600 cases per year (fig 2.1).

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The number of suicides in Kerala has decreased over the past 2 decades (fig 1.1). A noticeable decrease has been seen in the suicide rates of the unemployed. Student suicide rates and those working in the private sector have been consistent (fig 2.3). Kerala has the highest Human Development Index in India which means that life expectancy, education, and per capita income has been improving over the years. This increase can be a contributory factor to the significant decrease in the number of suicides in the state.

In Tamil Nadu, the maximum number of suicides were committed by housewives and unemployed people over the course of 12 years. Overall, the number of suicides almost doubled during the decade except amongst farmers, where it reduced to half (fig 2.2). Here, it might be important to note that Tamil Nadu is a state of India with a high HDI. Like Kerala, the state could have seen a decrease in the number of suicides, but the opposite was noticed.

It is shocking to note that consistently over the last decades, a significantly higher number of suicides have been reported amongst housewives than any other population category in India. They account for approx. 20 percent of all the suicides in India. While the overall numbers remain high, the trend has shown some decrease over the last five years. In comparison, farmers account for 12 percent of all suicides over the last two decades, but it is heartening to see the most distinct decline within this category over the last five years. The latest data reports farmer suicides account for less than ten percent of all suicides in India. This contradicts the general perception of farmers and those involved in agricultural activity to have been committing suicide largely. The remaining distribution of suicides in India is across professional categories such as private sector employees, self-employed, public sector employees, and students. If we look at the trends carefully, while most categories show a decline over time, private sector employees and students in India are reporting higher suicides over time.

What can be some plausible reasons for this significant increase in the number of suicides among housewives? Marital dissatisfaction, financial issues such as dowry, torture for dowry, domestic violence, and various other economic difficulties can contribute to the causal factors but only as stressors. The higher the stressors, the greater the risk of committing suicide. Family background, past psychiatric/medical history, genetic conditions, and the immediate environment are some significant factors. The ability to handle all these stressors/triggers along with depression (in some conditions), plays a vital role. In the raw data, it could also be seen that younger housewives had a higher number of suicides than those in the middle ages. Here, it becomes important to take into consideration that, there are a few cultural factors and old customs/traditions which are not supported or approved by the government but are still practiced in some rural areas. Due to this, the possibility of not getting the appropriate number of suicides amongst the young housewives also increases which in turn is a limitation for this study.

Many young people find it difficult to cope with failure in examinations and careers and neither families nor other social institutions offer adequate support or solace. In each state, the number of suicides committed by students each year might be less than the other professions, but it has been increasing when compared with its own numbers. Figure 2.2 shows how in 2001 the student suicide cases were less than 500 in that state. In fact, a downfall was seen during 2006-08 but the numbers have only been increasing since then, reaching up to almost 800 student suicide cases in 2012. Some probable causes may include forced career choices, pressure from the education system, and not being able to express own concerns views or choices. While these reasons may account for some suicide cases, the actual cause remains unknown for most of the cases.

Conclusion

This study revealed that the most vulnerable population to suicide is housewives which is contradictory to the accustomed viewpoint. It is a demographic more susceptible to suicides than farmers. Also, a significant increase in the number of suicides among students has also been noticed. Television, print, and social media focus on those involved in farming/agricultural activity and student section, but the study clearly indicates that housewives and the unemployed should also be highlighted. Yes, it is crucial to not overlook the other categories and come up with ways to decrease the numbers further, but it is also imperative to understand the cause behind these suicides at the individual, community, and national levels. Apart from spreading awareness about the multiple groups susceptible to suicides, it is also important to have better support systems and mental health care services in our country, India. The condescending attitude and stigma associated with mental health need to be changed gradually so that people, from any profession, can seek help whenever they wish to, and they must not feel uncomfortable or judged while seeking this care. If fulfilled, this can play an important role in suicide prevention especially amongst the young population and for future generations.

References

  1. Kumar, U., & K. Mandal, M. (2010). Suicidal Behaviour: Assessment of People-At-Risk (pp. 22-24). Delhi, India: SAGE Publications.
  2. Vijaykumar L. (2007). Suicide and its prevention: The urgent need in India. Indian journal of psychiatry, 49(2), 81–84. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.33252
  3. Jeffrey S., N., Rathus, S.A., & Greene, B. (2014). Suicides. Abnormal Psychology in a Changing World (9th ed., p. 281). Pearson Education, Inc.
  4. Radhakrishnan, R., & Andrade, C. (2012). Suicide: An Indian perspective. Indian journal of psychiatry, 54(4), 304–319. doi:10.4103/0019-5545.104793
  5. Sharma, H. (2019). No farmer in Madhya Pradesh committed suicide due to agrarian distress: CID report. Retrieved from https://www.indiatoday.in/india/story/madhya-pradesh-farmer-suicide-cid-report-nhrc-984365-2017-06-23
  6. News, E., & News, I. (2015). More housewives commit suicide than farmers, so why nobody is speaking out for them? retrieved from https://www.indiatvnews.com/news/india/more-housewives-committing-suicide-than-farmers-53541.html
  7. Pawar, D. (2014). Suicides and the State of Mental Health Care in India. Retrieved from https://www.mapsofindia.com/my-india/health/suicides-the-state-of-mental-health-care-in-india
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Suicides in India: Exploratory Essay. (2023, November 27). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 14, 2024, from https://edubirdie.com/examples/suicides-in-india-exploratory-essay/
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