Silent Screams: Understanding the alarming rise of suicides in Kashmir Valley

Silent Screams: Understanding the alarming rise of suicides in Kashmir Valley

Kashmiri language has no word corresponding to suicide. This shows how rare the phenomenon was in our culture.

Islam clearly forbids suicide as a verse in the Quran teaches: “And do not kill yourselves, surely Allah is most Merciful to you.” {Surah al-Nisa 4:29}.
The prohibition of suicide has also been recorded in statements of hadith (sayings of Prophet Muhammad SAW): Narrated Abu Hurairah (RA): The Prophet (SAW) said, “He who commits suicide by throttling shall keep on throttling himself in the Hell-Fire (forever) and he who commits suicide by stabbing himself shall keep on stabbing himself in the Hell-Fire.” {Sahih al-Bukhari, 2:23:446}.
Kashmir Valley, known for its stunning landscapes and cultural heritage, has been plagued by political conflict for decades. This conflict has resulted in a rise in suicides among the valley’s tenants, who face a wide range of issues that contribute to their mental distress. On average, 2 to 3 people in a week make an attempt to end their lives in the valley continuously and some get done and some are rescued. The psychological impact of the conflict in Kashmir cannot be overstated. The constant violence and instability have created a sense of hopelessness and despair among many of the region’s dwellers. The psychological scars of the conflict have been compounded by the lack of access to mental health resources and services in the region. The stigma associated with mental health issues has prevented many people from seeking help, leading to a significant underreporting of suicides.
The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) released data on suicidal deaths in India in August 2022 and the figures were startling. A total of 1,64,033 suicides were reported in the country in 2021 which is an increase of 7.2% in comparison to the previous year in terms of total numbers. In 2019, the age groups 18–30 and 30–45 years accounted for 35.1% and 31.8% of suicides in India, respectively. Combined, this age group of young adults accounted for 67% of total suicides. Thus, out of the total 1.39 lakh total suicides in India, 93,061 were among young adults. This indicates that they are the most vulnerable age group. Compared to 2018, youth suicide rates have risen by 4%.
According to the government’s Crime Gazette for 2021, Indian-administered Kashmir recorded 586 suicide cases in 2021 and 472 in 2020. According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the suicide rate in Jammu and Kashmir has steadily increased over the past few years. In 2019, the state reported a suicide rate of 10.3 per 100,000 people, which is higher than the national average of 10.2. The number of suicides in the region has been on the rise, with many experts attributing the increase to the ongoing conflict and the resulting trauma and stress.
The reasons for the increasing suicides in the valley are multifaceted. The political conflict that has been ongoing for years has resulted in a sense of helplessness and hopelessness among the residents, who have been forced to live with the constant threat of violence and unrest. This constant state of tension has led to a rise in mental health issues, including depression, anxiety, and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which can ultimately lead to suicide.
The unemployment rate in Jammu and Kashmir is one of the highest in the country, with young people being particularly affected. According to a report by the Centre for Monitoring Indian Economy, the unemployment rate in the state stood at 12.1%, higher than the national average of 6.1%. The lack of economic opportunities has led to a sense of hopelessness and frustration among the youth, leading to an increase in suicide rates. Unemployment and financial constraints are significant contributing factors. Kashmir’s economy is heavily reliant on tourism, and the valley’s tourism industry has been severely impacted by the conflict. This has led to a significant decline in job opportunities, leaving many people struggling to make ends meet. Financial stress, coupled with a lack of access to mental health resources, can lead to suicidal ideation. The rate of male suicides increased further last year. One of the reasons could be rising unemployment and economic downslide following the pandemic. Male members, being the major bread-earners of the family, bore the maximum brunt of economic debacle through pay cuts, interruptions of payment, or, in worst cases, loss of jobs.
Caregiver status is another issue that can contribute to mental distress and suicide. Many residents in the valley are responsible for caring for family members, including those with physical or mental health issues. This can be a significant source of stress, particularly if the caregiver feels overwhelmed and unsupported. Family problems and illness were the major causes of suicides as per the report. The overall male-to-female ratio of suicide victims for the year 2021 was 73:27, which is more compared to that of the year 2020 (71:29).
Domestic violence is also a noteworthy issue in the valley, with many women and children experiencing abuse at the hands of their partners or family members. This can be a traumatic and isolating experience, and can ultimately lead to suicide if the individual feels there is no way out. Of the females who committed suicide, the highest number involved “Marriage Related Issues” (specifically dowry-related issues) and in terms of profession, homemakers constituted the highest number. Thus, social issues including gender inequality and dowry practices continue to make marriage stressful to Kashmiri women rather than protective as portrayed by Western studies.
Conflict with family members and persistent abusive relationships can also contribute to suicidal ideation. These issues can be particularly challenging to navigate in the context of the ongoing political conflict, which has disrupted many traditional support structures and has made it difficult for individuals to seek help.
Finally, a lack of social support can be a significant factor in the increasing suicide rates in the valley. Many residents feel that they have nowhere to turn for help, and are not aware of the resources that are available to them.
To put it briefly, the increasing suicides in the Kashmir Valley are a complex issue that is rooted in the ongoing political conflict, as well as a range of other social and economic factors. Addressing these issues will require a comprehensive approach that includes increased access to mental health resources, job opportunities, and social support. It is critical that the government, civil society organizations, and other stakeholders work together to address this urgent public health issue and provide the necessary support to those who are struggling.

The author is a Researcher, Blogger, and Freelancer. Feedback at [email protected]


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