Two decades ago, the state of Jammu and Kashmir had the lowest suicide rate in the subcontinent, but the picture has changed drastically over twenty-two years of turmoil. Reminders have come in various forms, often as complied facts and figures, and on occasion, graphically, as on August 22 last year when 5 suicides were reported in Kashmir in a single day. Data from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) indicated a 44.3 per cent rise in suicides in 2012, and independent studies suggest that suicide has become the second common cause of unnatural death in the Valley.
An average of 3.5 persons has reported daily to the SMHS causality with suicide, para- suicide and deliberate self-harm (DSH) over the past 3 years, a study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry in the Government Medical College in Srinagar shows. Most of those who complete suicide are males in the age group of 25 – 34 years. But most attempted suicides are by females. Among women, the incidence of para-suicide is four times, and that of deliberate self-harm seven times, that of men.
Suicide attempts by women are mostly a cry for help, a Valley-based social scientist says, citing their high para-suicide rate (where women attempt suicide but rarely complete it). But statistics over the past few months prove the expert partly wrong. Reports suggest that an average of two women takes the extreme step daily in the conflict-torn Valley. The conflict has definitely taken a toll on mental health in Kashmir, but recent suicides, especially by women, reflect disorganization of both the individual and society in Kashmir. Experts give several reasons, ranging from failed love affairs to unemployment for disturbing trend. Sometimes the reasons are too trivial to justify an emotional response. Remedial measures like providing support systems and involving the clergy have been suggested.
A student of Class 11 ended his life after severe scolding by his parents for scoring only 91 per cent marks in his term examination. He had scored 93 per cent the previous term. But when the parents realized their mistake, it was too late. A medical student inflicted a superficial wound on her wrist to force her parents to accept her boyfriend. The frightened parents had to give in. Later, she told her friends how she had ensured not to slice blood vessels beneath the skin intact. In November 2010, a young girl from Gandarbal district ended her life when somebody told her that pre-paid mobile connections would not work. She consumed some poisonous substance and breathed her last in the hospital.
Experts attribute rising suicidal tendencies among males to psychosocial factors like traumatic stress, poverty and unemployment, and in females to domestic violence and multiple traumas. They further say that declining religious values, lack of religious education, nuclearization of families, ever-increasing performance expectations and unemployment are interacting with chronic conflict stress and increasing mental health problems to create a health crisis of a magnitude that needs urgent and emergency attention.