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A Student Commits Suicide Every Hour in India, 39,775 killed themselves in 2015: National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB)

According to reports, Delhi's Arjun Bharadwaj who committed suicide had been depressed about failure in exams and was probably battling drug addiction

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New Delhi, April 7, 2017: On April 3, 2017, Arjun Bharadwaj, a 24-year-old management student, committed suicide by jumping out of a 19th-floor hotel room in Mumbai.

Media reporting suggested he had been depressed about failure in exams and repeatedly talked about ending his life on social media. There were also suggestions he was battling drug addiction.

Bharadwaj`s story made the headlines — likely because he killed himself at a five-star hotel and discussed suicide methods on Facebook — but it is no exception: Every hour, one student commits suicide in India, according to 2015 data (the latest available) from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).

In 2015, the number of student suicides stood at 8,934. In the five years leading to 2015, 39,775 students killed themselves. The number of attempted suicides, many unreported, is likely to be much higher.

India has one of the world`s highest suicide rates for youth aged 15 to 29, according to a 2012 Lancet report, which illustrated the need for urgent interventions for this demographic.

In 2015, Maharashtra reported most student suicides of any state: 1,230 of 8,934 (14 per cent) nationwide, followed by Tamil Nadu (955) and Chhattisgarh (625). Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu are among India`s most advanced states, and their high rate of suicides could reflect the pressures of economic growth.

Sikkim, the state with India`s highest suicide rate, offers future warning for India.

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Sikkim is India`s third-richest state (after Delhi and Chandigarh), by per capita income, and its literacy rate is seventh highest. But it also records the second-highest unemployment rate. About 27 per cent of the state`s suicides were related to unemployment and found to be most common among those between 21 and 30 years of age.

Conversations with counsellors revealed that 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. Professional help is difficult to find because India endures an 87 per cent shortage of mental-health professionals. The situation is exacerbated by low public spending on mental health — India spends less than Bangladesh on mental-health services.

Family background, it would appear, has an important role in determining how young people cope with despair.

Students from “happy” families suffer from less depression, according to an October 2016 study conducted among Indian university students. Shaibya Saldanha, co-Founder of Enfold India, an NGO which works with children and adolescents, concurs with this reasoning.

“The popular perception is that failing exams or inability to cope with academics is the primary reason for student suicides,” Saldanha told IndiaSpend in an email interview. “This is rooted in a sense of helplessness or extreme frustration.”

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Student suicides are becoming increasingly common in Kota, Rajasthan, considered the capital of India`s shadow education system. Its many commercial coaching centres, that guarantee success in professional entrance exams, pressure students into striving for unrealistic goals. Unable to cope with failure and anxious about letting their family down, a growing number of Kota students opt to end their lives.

“These deaths result from poor relationships with parents, excessive expectations, the feeling of being unwanted, poor understanding of their peer/romantic relationships. These result in an impulsive decision or a long thought-out deliberate suicide,” said Saldanha.

The 2016 study further found that students who studied social science and humanities, performed poorly in academics, or came from disadvantaged families reported higher rates of depression.

Financial issues dominate the reasons for suicide: About 70 per cent of suicide victims in 2015 had an income of less than Rs 100,000 per annum, the NCRB data revealed. Even though this figure isn`t disaggregated for students, it corroborated the study`s findings on the links between suicide and financial condition.

India does not spend enough on mental health. Currently, it spends 0.06 per cent of its health budget on mental health, which is less than Bangladesh (0.44 per cent). Most developed nations spend above four per cent of their budgets on mental-health research, infrastructure, frameworks and talent pool, according to a 2011 World Health Organisation(WHO) report.

Student suicides are now frequent enough to draw the attention of policymakers and celebrity campaigners. In his Mann Ki Baat radio speech on March 27, 2017, Prime Minister Narendra Modi urged Indians to talk about depression and seek help if needed. Actor Anupam Kher, in response to Bharadwaj`s suicide, shared his email address on Twitter and invited anyone feeling depressed to talk to him — although depression is a condition that requires medical help.

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The remedy lies in raising awareness about mental health in schools and colleges, said experts. “Mental health and wellness should be added to school curriculum. Only when children know about these disorders in their formative years will they be able to seek help,” said Satyakant Trivedi, a psychiatrist, in an India Today article.

Enfold`s Saldanha had similar solutions, although she emphasised the need for better parenting during emotional crises. “There should be sexuality and life skills education in schools and colleges,” she said. “Additionally, since parents play a major role, there should be parenting classes when people get their marriages registered.”

Universities in India still lack counselling centres, where trained counsellors and psychologists can assist students at the onset of emotional and mental problems so they do not spiral into full-fledged clinical depression and lead to suicide.

India, as we said, faces an 87 per cent shortage of mental-health professionals. There are 3,800 psychiatrists, 898 clinical psychologists, 850 psychiatric social workers and 1,500 psychiatric nurses nationwide, according to a reply by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare in the Lok Sabha in December 2015.

This means there were three psychiatrists per million people, according to data from WHO, 95 per cent fewer than the Commonwealth norm of 5.6 psychiatrists per 100,000 people. By this estimate, India is short of 66,200 psychiatrists. (IANS)

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee: A Peace Visionary and a Man Who Believed in India’s Destiny and was Ready To Fight For It

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee -- one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it -- that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum.

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Atal Bihari Vajpayee,
Atal Bihari Vajpayee, India's peace visionary. Image: Flickr

Atal Bihari Vajpayee was a man of moderation in a fraternity of jingoistic nationalists; a peace visionary in a region riven by religious animosity; and a man who believed in India’s destiny and was ready to fight for it.

Former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee (93), who died on Thursday, will go down in history as a person who tried to end years of hostility with Pakistan and put development on the front burner of the country’s political agenda. He was also the first non-Congress Prime Minister to complete a full five-year term.

Even though he lived the last 13 years of his life in virtual isolation, dogged by debilitating illnesses and bedridden, he has left an enduring legacy for the nation and the region where he was much loved and respected across the political spectrum and national boundaries, including in Pakistan.

Vajpayee, former Indian Prime Minister
Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state. Image: Wikimedia Commons

In the tumultuous period he presided over the destiny of the world’s largest democracy, Vajpayee stunned the world by making India a declared nuclear state and then almost went to war with Pakistan before making peace with it in the most dramatic fashion.
In the process, his popularity came to match that of Indira Gandhi, a woman he admired for her guts even as he hated her politics.

He also became the best-known national leader after Indira Gandhi and her father Jawaharlal Nehru.

After despairing for years that he would never become Prime Minister and was destined to remain an opposition leader all his life, he achieved his goal, but only for 13 days, from May 16-28, 1996, after his deputy, L.K. Advani, chose not to contest elections that year.
His second term came on March 19, 1998, and lasted 13 months, a period during which India stunned the world by undertaking a series of nuclear tests that invited global reproach.

Although his tenure again proved short-lived, his and his government’s enhanced stature following the world-defying blasts enabled him to return as Prime Minister for the third time on October 13, 1999, a tenure that lasted a full five-year term.

When finally he stepped down in May 2004, after an election that he was given to believe he would win, it marked the end of a long and eventful political career spanning six decades.

Vajpayee had gone into these elections riding a personality cult that projected him as a man who had brought glory to the nation in unprecedented ways. The BJP’s election strategy rested on seeking a renewed mandate over three broad pillars of achievement that the government claimed — political stability in spite of the pulls and pressures of running a multi-party coalition; a “shining” economy that saw a dizzying 10.4 percent growth in the last quarter of the previous year; and peace with Pakistan that changed the way the two countries looked at each other for over 50 years.

The results of the elections could not have come as a greater shock to a man who was hailed for his achievements and who was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 influential men of the decade.

Success didn’t come easily to the charismatic politician, who was born on Christmas Day in 1924 in Gwalior, Madhya Pradesh, into a family of moderate means. His father was a school teacher and Vajpayee would later recall his early brush with poverty.

He did his Masters in Political Science, studying at the Victoria College in Gwalior and at the DAV College in Kanpur, Uttar Pradesh, where he first contested, and lost, elections. He began his professional career as a journalist, working with Rashtradharma, a Hindi monthly, Panchjanya, a Hindi weekly, and two Hindi dailies, Swadesh and Veer Arjun. By then he had firmly embraced the ideals of the Hindu nationalist Rashtriya Swayamsewak Sangh (RSS).
But even as he struggled to win electoral battles, his command over Hindi, the lingua franca of the North Indian masses, his conciliatory politics and his riveting oratory brought him into public limelight.

Also read: For Modi, Road To 2019 Will Be Steeper

His first entry into Parliament was in 1962 through the Rajya Sabha, the upper house. It was only in 1971 that he won a Lok Sabha election. He was elected to the lower house seven times and to the Rajya Sabha twice.

Vajpayee
Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975. Image: Wikimedia Commons

Vajpayee spent months in prison when Indira Gandhi imposed Emergency rule in June 1975 and put her political opponents in jail. When the Janata Party took office in 1977, dethroning the Congress for the first time, he became the foreign minister.

The lowest point in his career came when he lost the 1984 Lok Sabha polls, that too from his birthplace Gwalior, after Rajiv Gandhi won an overwhelming majority following his mother Indira Gandhi’s assassination. And the BJP he led ended up with just two seats in
the 545-member Lok Sabha, in what looked like the end of the road for the right-wing party.

In no time, Vajpayee was replaced and “eclipsed” by his long-time friend L.K. Advani.
Although they were the best of friends publicly, Vajpayee never fully agreed with Advani’s and the assorted Hindu nationalist groups’ strident advocacy of Hindutva, an ideology ranged against the idea of secular India.

Often described as the right man in the wrong party, there were also those who belittled him as a moderate “mask” to a hardline Hindu nationalist ideology. Often he found his convictions and value systems at odds with the party, but the bachelor-politician never went against it.

It was precisely this persona of Vajpayee — one merged in Hindutva ideology yet seemingly not wholly willing to bow to it — that won him admirers cutting across the political spectrum. It was this trait that made him the Prime Minister when the BJP’s allies concluded they needed a moderate to steer a hardliner, pro-Hindu party.

He brought into governance measures that created for India a distinct international status on the diplomatic and economic fronts. In his third prime ministerial stint, Vajpayee launched a widely acclaimed diplomatic initiative by starting a bus service between New Delhi and Pakistan’s Lahore city.

Its inaugural run in February 1999 carried Vajpayee and was welcomed on the border by his Pakistan counterpart Nawaz Sharif. It was suspended only after the 2001 terror attack on the Indian Parliament that nearly led to a war between the two nuclear-armed neighbours.

The freeze between the two countries, including an eyeball-to-eyeball confrontation on the border for nearly a year, was finally cracked in the spring of 2003 when Vajpayee, while in Kashmir, extended a “hand of friendship” to Pakistan. That led to the historic summit in January 2004 with then President Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad — a remarkable U-turn after the failed summit in Agra of 2001. Despite the two men being so far apart in every way, Musharraf developed a strong liking for the Indian leader.

His unfinished task, one that he would probably rue, would be the peace process with Pakistan that he had vowed to pursue to its logical conclusion and a resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

He was not known as “Atal-Ji”, a name that translates into firmness, for nothing. He could go against the grain of his party if he saw it deviate from its path. When Hindu hardliners celebrated the destruction of the 16th century Babri Mosque at Ayodhya, he was full of personal remorse for the apocalyptic action and called it — in a landmark interview to IANS — the “worst miscalculation” and a “misadventure”. He even despaired that “moderates have no place — who is going to listen to the voice of sanity?”

In his full five-year term, he successively carried forward India’s economic reforms programme with initiatives to improve infrastructure, including flagging off a massive national highway project that has become associated with his vision, went for massive privatisation of unviable state undertakings despite opposition from even within his own party.

While his personal image remained unsullied despite his long innings in the murky politics of this country, his judgment was found wanting when his government was rocked by an arms bribery scandal that sought to expose alleged payoffs to some senior members of his cabinet. His failure to speak up when members of his party and its sister organisations, who are accused of killing more than 1,000 Muslims in Gujarat, was questioned by the liberal fraternity who wondered aloud about his secular proclamations. He wanted then Chief Minister — now Prime Minister, Narendra Modi — to take responsibility for the riots and quit but was prevailed upon by others not to press his decision.

A day before his party lost power, Vajpayee was quoted as saying in a television interview that if and when he stepped down he would like to devote his time to writing and poetry. But fate ruled otherwise. The man who once rued that “I have waited too long to be Prime Minister” found his last days in a world far removed from the adulation and attention — though across the nation people prayed for his well-being — surrounded only by care-givers and close family whom he even failed to recognize. (IANS)