Srinagar: Post pandemic, Kashmir is staring at a mental health crisis with suicides increasing at an alarming rate.
In the past month, four shocking cases of suicide have come to the fore. A 24-year-old youth from Kupwara committed suicide after the pandemic lockdown exacerbated the penury of his family, while youth from Lolab, Kupwara took his life just three days after his marriage.
Similarly, a week ago, two youth allegedly committed suicide in Batamaloo and Nowgam areas of Srinagar respectively, by hanging themselves at their respective homes whereas a 17-year-old youth has committed suicide by jumping into river Jhelum from Cement Kadal in the Noorbagh area of Srinagar. The class 11 student has also shot a video before committing suicide and sought forgiveness from his parents for taking this extreme step.
Mental health in Kashmir has always been a subject of attention. There were 284 suicides reported in Jammu and Kashmir in 2019. This number represents a 13.9% increase in suicides in 2019 from 2018, as per the National Crime Records Bureau, 2020.
Consultant Psychiatrist at JLNM Hospital, Dr. Sheikh Shoib said suicide is not just some idea which a person gets randomly; it’s a manifestation of underlying mental health issues.
“When a person witnesses trauma and turmoil in life, it makes him more vulnerable. He or she may have suicidal ideation as a consequence of these problems. There are various reasons that can lead to suicide. It includes the loss or separation from loved ones, self-confidence and self-esteem issues, performance pressure and having recurrent beliefs about nothing will get better, the feeling of loneliness, sudden decline in social activities, financial issues, and traumatic episodes, etc,” he said.
Dr. Shoib said the current pandemic has exacerbated the mental health of Kashmiris and that can be one of the factors of suicide.
“Sensible media reporting of suicide is one focus for devising a suicide prevention strategy as it influences public awareness and attitude about suicide,” he said.
He noted that there is a need for proper legislation and strict enforcement of drug dispensing procedures as it can help in decreasing the number of cases.
“Improvement in psychiatric services can help in decreasing the suicidal poisoning cases. Awareness programmes, preventive measures, proper psychiatric referral systems and population-based studies should be promoted to find out the vulnerable groups and identify the psychological, behavioral, and relationship-related issues among them to design effective interventional strategies and to decrease the incidence of suicide,” he said.
He emphasized that the cyber police wing should ensure that videos of victims are pulled down as soon as possible, as suicide has an imitative effect, which can prompt another vulnerable person to take their life.
Senior Clinical Psychologist Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS) Ajaz Ahmad Khan it is necessary for the death investigators to be aware of the common scenario and risk factors,
“There is a dysfunctional parenting pattern in Kashmir. Many times, a child is unable to vent out or share his emotional burden with his parents. Consequently, it becomes a major reason for suicide. A conducive atmosphere should be created in the family so that a child can freely talk to his parents,” Khan said.
He pointed out that mental health professionals are also deficient in Kashmir, ” Be it psychiatrists, clinical psychologists, or psychiatric social workers, there is a dearth of trained experts,” Khan said.
It’s pertinent to mention last year India launched its first 24/7 suicide helpline KIRAN— 1800-599-0019. It targets to resolve issues of people across the country experiencing stress, anxiety, depression, panic attack, adjustment disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, substance abuse, suicidal thoughts, pandemic-induced psychological issues, and mental health emergencies.
“Likewise Jammu and Kashmir administration should launch a 24*7 state suicidal helpline particularly for those who are suffering from mental health illness,” Khan said.