Srinagar: Neck-deep in debt, a 45-year-old fruit vendor Rahim (name-changed), attempted to end his life in April when COVID lockdown was announced.
“He was in abject poverty and had borrowed some amount since he could not earn anything during the lockdown. Soon, he was neck-deep in debt and had no way to get out of it even as the lenders began insisting that he return their money along with the interest,” said his neighbor wishing not to be named.
Finally, Rahim decided to get out of the mess by swallowing rat poison. However, he was brought to SMHS hospital in the nick of time and his life was salvaged.
Rahim is not an isolated case. Turbulent domestic scenario prompted the 15-year-old Rafia (name-changed) to attempt suicide in the uptown area of Srinagar in June.
“Her parents don’t get along well with each other. Earlier, she avoided much interaction with them as she would be away at school and tuition. Due to stay-at-home togetherness, she noticed their frequent scuffles and it depressed her with each passing day,” Rafia’s friend said.
Consequently, she tried to end her life by swallowing a fistful of sleeping pills.
The ongoing pandemic has created an environment that is harsh and detrimental for mental health, especially with the downturn of the economy, the isolation that has come with months of social distancing, and the sheer stress of navigating through life while battling a dangerous virus.
These circumstances have created a pandemonium all around the globe, making this the most imperative time to focus on suicide prevention. Kashmir is no different from this trend.
An official at SMHS Hospital, Srinagar said the number of patients who attempted suicides amid the pandemic is very high.
“On average the hospital sees around 100 patients with suicide attempts every month,” he said.
Associate Professor Department of Psychiatry, IMHANS, Dr Yasir H Rather said suicide is not just some idea which a person gets randomly; it’s a manifestation of underlying mental health issues.
“When a person witness tremors 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,” Rather said.
Child and adolescent therapist at wellbeing center IMHANS, Wasim Kakroo said the COVID-19 pandemic has profound psychological, economic and social effects.
“It is imperative to be more open towards mental health issues like depression and anxiety and not shaming people on their weaknesses,” he said.