Srinagar: Though considered as one of the gravest sin’s in Islam suicides in the Muslim majority state of Jammu and Kashmir have been showing an upward trend over the past many years.
Even today the government has come up with some figures in the state assembly which give us an insight into the grave issue that has been confronting our society. According to the figures provided by the government as many as 547 people committed suicide in the state during the past two years. 275 cases of suicide were registered in 2017, as compared to 272 cases in 2016. Though, the figure does not reflect cent percent accuracy as many cases go unreported as well.
Suicide, a hitherto unknown phenomenon in the state till the late eighties, has consumed many lives during the past three decades. A study conducted by an ex- Head of the Department of Sociology, University of Kashmir, wrote in his book that 62 per cent of the suicides in the Valley involved women while men comprised 38 percent. The reason is very obvious, due the ongoing turmoil in Kashmir, women have been the silent sufferers.
What is compelling our young generation and even some elderly as well-to take this extreme step, is a question that haunts us all. The social scientists though have tried to answer this riddle but as of now no solution to this grave issue is in sight.
The state of Jammu and Kashmir has been witnessing an unprecedented spell of violence since the past three decades now. And this extra exposure to violence is considered as one of the major factors, though not the only one to lead people to take this extreme step.
What is interesting to note is that the National Crime Bureau Records (NCBR) suggests that the rate of suicides in the state of Jammu and Kashmir is much higher than many other states in India.
The staggering figures reveal that Kashmir has a higher suicide rate at 2.1 percent than the other states of Uttar Pradesh (1.7) and Bihar (0.7). Since 1989, the rate of suicide in Kashmir has increased. Before 1989, the rate of suicide in Kashmir was 0.5 per 100,000 people. And, by 2007 it reached 20 per 100,000, double the all-India average. Most of them, around 60 per cent are the females.
The point we are missing while discussing and debating the issue is that no attention is being paid to the status of mental health care in the state, especially Kashmir. Those who are associated with mental health care have been saying that during the pre-1990 era the mental health institute in Srinagar used to witness a mild rush of patients comprising 7 to 8 patients a day.
However, as per ‘Medecins Sans Frontieres (MSF)’ 2015 study on Mental Health in Kashmir, 1.8 million (45%) adults in the Kashmir Valley have significant symptoms of mental distress, approximately 1.6 million adults (41%) in the valley are living with significant symptoms of depression, with 415,000 (10%) meeting all the diagnostic criteria for severe depression.
In this scenario, the availability of Psychiatrists and counselors is miserably low in the region. Thus prompting a serious effort by the government to initiate steps in this direction.
Alarmingly, an estimated-1 million adults (26%) in the valley are living with significant symptoms of an anxiety related disorder. Nearly 1 in 5 adults (19%) or 771,000 individuals in the Valley are living with significant PTSD symptoms, with 248,000 (6%) meeting the diagnostic criteria for PTSD. Given such a scenario the priority has to be on improving the mental healthcare facility. Then only the tendency towards suicides can be curbed to some extent.