Crisis Point

Even in the late eighties, Jammu and Kashmir had the lowest suicide rate in the sub-continent, but over twenty-four years of turmoil have changed the picture completely. Lately, there have been occasions when five suicides were reported in a single day. Figures from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) show that the incidence had witnessed a 44.3 per cent increase in 2012. Independent studies indicate suicide to have become the second common cause of unnatural death in the Valley.

A study conducted by the Department of Psychiatry at the Government Medical College in Srinagar reveals that over the past three years, an average 3.5 persons have reported daily to the SMHS causality with suicide, para-suicide and deliberate self harm (DSH).  In most cases of completed suicide, the subjects are males falling in the age group of 25 – 34. But most attempted suicides are by females, with four times more para suicides and seven times more deliberate self harm.

According to a noted Valley sociologist, suicide attempts by women are mostly a cry for help. But the statistics over a period of months prove the expert partly wrong. On an average, two women take the extreme step everyday in the conflict-torn Valley, reports suggest. The conflict has definitely taken a toll on mental health in Kashmir but the reasons for recent suicides, especially by women, reflect the disorganization of both the individual and society in Kashmir.    Experts give several reasons for this high incidence – ranging from failed love affairs to unemployment. Sometimes the reasons are too trivial to justify an emotional response. Remedial measures such as providing a support system and involving the clergy have been suggested.

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 to keep 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 connections would not work. She consumed some poisonous substance and breathed her last in the hospital. A Class 11 student ended his life following severe scolding by his parents for getting scoring 91 per cent in a term examination when he had scored 95 per cent in the previous test. But when the parents realized their mistake, it was too late.

Experts attribute this rising suicidal tendency among males to psychosocial factors like traumatic stress, poverty and unemployment, while among females, domestic violence and multiple trauma, are cited as major factors. They further say that declining religious values, lack of religious education, nuclear families, and ever-increasing performance expectations and unemployment are interacting with chronic conflict stress and increasing mental health problems to create an issue of a magnitude that needs urgent and emergency attention