Understanding high suicide rate in Kashmir

During last 22 years there has been a phenomenal increase in rate of suicides in Kashmir. A survey was conducted by Nations Premier Institute Bangalore in 1989 were it was found that rate of suicide was 0.5 per cent per 100000 people. A survey using the same tools was repeated in 2010 and rate of suicide was 15-20 per 100000.

Every day we hear on radio or read in newspapers some girl or boy or middle aged person or a well read working doctor committed suicide. Majority of people in Kashmir have become indifferent to these horrific suicides which itself is very disappointing.

We might claim that we all follow our religions in the right spirit, but reality is far away from our public statements. Gone are the days when neighbors used to exchange all from dishes to scooters. Our family structures have broken, Kashmir which prided itself on its network of joint families has long moved into an era of nuclear families. In joint families elders used to act as role models for youngsters, they had enough time to listen to physiological as well as spiritual needs of growing children. Now majority of Kashmiri parents can give costly mobiles, bikes, laptops. But, unfortunately, while they make all the things available to the children they hard have any time for them.

Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages and religions are at risk for suicide. Nevertheless main risk factors for suicide in Kashmir are:

Depression, other mental disorders or drug addiction

A prior suicide attempt

Family history of suicide

Family violence, including domestic violence against women— a leading cause in Kashmir.

A person who spends many years in jail

Anomic suicide: Very common in Kashmir, due to catastrophic social change

Certain people have got very low level of tolerance and coping with stress. These are people who often commit suicide in Kashmir after failure in exams or love affair.

A doctor, who worked outside analyzed that the rising suicide rate in the valley may have to do with a combination of two factors; depression and oppression, coupled with an environment where there is hardly any vent for feelings. I also noted that in rural areas of Kashmir pesticides are present in almost every household therefore  organophosphorus  deaths spike in summer.

Most of the district hospitals don’t have antidotes present for commonly used poisons and large number of deaths take place while shifting patients from far-flung areas to City hospitals.

CAN SUICIDE BE PREVENTED?

Suicide is the only psychiatric disease that is preventable.

Effective suicide prevention is based on sound research. Programs that work take into account the risk factors in a particular region and encourage interventions that are area specific. In Kashmir depression, drug addiction, failure in exams and domestic violence top the causes of suicides. All government or non-governmental organizations need to make intervention based programs to reduce suicides.

Psychotherapy can effectively reduce suicide risk. One of which is used worldwide is known as Cognitive behavioral therapy.  It can help people learn new ways of dealing with stressful experiences by training them to consider alternative actions when thoughts of suicide arise. In severe cases of suicidal thoughts medicine, monitoring becomes must. In our everyday life we may see our friend or brother very serious about committing suicide. There is a universal help code for such a person, it is called SAFE.

S: Checking the seriousness of suicide [tone, previous attempts, aggravating factor]

A: Access to help [Doctor, family members, friends, neighbors]

F: Feelings [Feelings of guilt, sin, betrayal]

E: Effective support [While talking with him/her use his/her name, it will remind him of his identity, never agree to hold a suicide plan in confidence.

Unfortunately not much has been done in Jammu and Kashmir regarding preventing suicides, except seminars for highly educated people.

In Kashmiri language there is no word for suicide; I hope time comes in future when rate of suicides in Kashmir will be lowest.

Dr Arif Maghribi can be mailed for any enquiry  at arifmaghribi@yahoo.com

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