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Marital discord, academic pressure, drug abuse: J&K accounts for 30% of all suicides in India

March 9, 2024
suicide note hand and drugs

Srinagar: In the tumultuous dispute between her parents, Azra (name changed) found herself in the crossfire.

Living with her mother, Azra was the fall guy in her parental discord. Her mother often blamed her daughter for the crisis. Unable to cope with the mental anguish, she resorted to self-harm to escape from reality.

“Her parents were on the verge of divorce, and Azra was living with her mother. Her mother used to blame her for discord with her husband. She used to tell her that if she wasn’t born she would have left her father a long time ago,” said her doctor.

The psychological toll of shouldering such unwarranted culpability proved too much for Azra to bear. Faced with the overwhelming burden of guilt, she turned to self-harm as an outlet for her pent-up emotions. “She used to think that she was the reason for the dispute between her parents and started harming herself,” said her doctor.

Azra’s distress reached a critical juncture when her self-harming behavior escalated, prompting her parents to seek medical intervention. Following her admission to the hospital, Azra and her family underwent counseling sessions, aiming to address the underlying issues fueling her destructive coping mechanism.

“We had to deal very cautiously with her parents. If we had told them they were the cause for the deterioration of their daughter’s mental health, they wouldn’t come here again,” said her doctor.

The delicate balance of supporting Azra while navigating her parents’ sensitivities underscores the complexities inherent in addressing familial conflicts and their impact on adolescent mental health.

Another harrowing tale of Khalid (name changed), 33, serves as a stark reminder of the devastating consequences of untreated mental illness. Khalid, grappling with schizophrenia, tragically succumbed to his inner demons after discontinuing treatment, casting a shadow over the importance of accessible mental health.

“We put him on medications to address his suicidal ideations. His condition wasn’t good, so counseling alone couldn’t suffice. We admitted him to ensure he received comprehensive care before discharging him,” said his doctor.

However, the road to recovery was not smooth. Upon returning home, Khalid’s family, perhaps influenced by local beliefs, opted to seek solace from a spiritual figure within their community, diverting from the medical path prescribed by professionals.

“Ultimately, due to his carelessness, he stopped taking medications. He neglected his follow-ups with us, disregarding the importance of ongoing treatment,” said his doctor.

 Khalid’s decision to forego medical intervention proved catastrophic, hastening his descent into despair and culminating in a tragic outcome.

“One day he shot himself,” said Khalid’s doctor with a heavy voice as he lost a patient to the ravages of untreated mental illness.

According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) report, Jammu and Kashmir accounted for about 30 percent of all suicides in India in 2022.

In the backdrop of rising mental health concerns in Kashmir, Tele MANAS emerges as a beacon of hope, offering round-the-clock telepsychiatry services to address a myriad of psychiatric issues, including suicidal ideations.

 Dr. Abrar, Consultant Psychiatrist at IMHANS and Associate Professor at Tele MANAS, highlighted the critical role of this toll-free helpline in breaking the stigma surrounding mental health while emphasizing the urgent need for awareness and support.

Dr. Abrar told The Kashmir Monitor that in a 24-hour shift at Tele MANAS, they receive approximately 20 to 30 calls from individuals facing psychiatric issues, with over 50 cases reporting suicidal ideations. “Through empathetic counseling and evidence-based interventions, Tele MANAS has successfully extended a lifeline to countless individuals on the brink of despair,” he said.

Tele Manas is a toll-free, 24×7 telepsychiatry helpline that has made a profound making counselors and psychiatrists available round the clock. People in need can simply dial 14416 to access immediate assistance and guidance.

Dr. Abrar underscored the societal taboos surrounding mental illness, which often dissuade individuals from seeking medical assistance. “Tele MANAS is a pathway to break the stigma ingrained in our society regarding mental health. With its confidentiality, affordability, and round-the-clock availability, Tele MANAS represents a beacon of hope for those navigating the complexities of mental illness,” he said.

 “In OPD there is almost one to two cases who attempted suicide and many cases of patients who are having suicidal thoughts,” he said.

Afaaq Sayeed of Social Reforms Organisation (SRO) Kashmir told The Kashmir Monitor that the primary reasons for suicides in Kashmir are family distress, economic distress, academic pressure, and drug abuse. He also said that people around Kashmir highlight the incidents of suicides which ultimately boosts someone who is having suicidal ideation.

“Awareness about mental health is very important. Social media should play as a catalyst in encouraging the people positively who are having suicidal tendencies rather than highlighting the suicide cases,” he said.

He also advised parents to have an eye on their children and not to put much academic pressure on them

 While highlighting the pervasive triggers underlying suicidal ideations, Dr. Abrar emphasized the critical role of family support and open communication in mitigating risk factors. From domestic violence to academic stress and societal expectations, the triggers for suicidal thoughts vary widely across gender and age demographics. Dr. Abrar called upon parents, educators, and society at large to foster environments of understanding and support, where individuals feel empowered to seek help without fear of judgment or retribution.

“People with suicidal ideation will not go directly for it. He or she will give the alarm to people around. Mood swings, depression, and isolation are some of the signs that shouldn’t be taken lightly. Destigmatizing mental health, promoting open dialogue, and urging individuals to seek medical assistance, can stop the suicide intention at an early stage,” he said.

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Avatar of Minzah Mehraj

Minzah Mehraj

A journalist based in Srinagar, Kashmir, covering culture, education, health and environmental stories

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