SUICIDE – a malaise that’s silently seeping into our lives, especially among our youth. In fact, here in Kashmir, it has sadly become a crucial health exigency, afflicting individuals across the socio-economic spectrum, with a particularly dangerous impact on adolescents.
- The mental dip: The causes
There are multiple factors leading to such high incidence of suicide in the region, and paucity of mental health services and awareness are among the most crucial. The stigma attached to mental health afflictions often blocks individuals from seeking professional assistance. And then, the high incidence of poverty, unemployment, substance abuse, and relationship issues in Kashmir compounds the predicament, rendering individuals despondent and helpless. These circumstances get so accentuated that individuals find it impossible to seek help or access adequate treatment. Additionally, mental health services are limited and beyond reach for many, especially those residing in rural areas.
In extreme cases, pressure from parents to excel academically can have an adverse impact on the mental health of children, culminating in suicide.
As per a 2019 study conducted by the Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (IMHANS), the suicide rate in Kashmir has skyrocketed by nearly 70% over the past decade, signalling an alarming trend that necessitates urgent attention and intervention.
- Talk about mental health, don’t shoo it away
To address the issue of rising suicide cases, there is an imperative need to invest in mental health services and education. Awareness regarding mental health must be enhanced, and the stigma linked to seeking professional help must be diminished. Additionally, augmenting economic opportunities and social support systems can instill hope and a sense of empowerment in individuals. It is also critical for parents to provide balanced support to their children, emphasizing the significance of giving their best while acknowledging that exam outcomes do not define their worth as individuals. If a child grapples with mental health issues, it is crucial to seek professional help and support them in a non-judgmental and compassionate manner.
Dr. Mehran, a psychologist, feels out: “In Kashmir, the immeasurable psychological, social, and economic causes and consequences of suicide are undeniable. The zone has been dealing with a multitude of problems ranging from militancy to lack of education, unemployment to lack of support from family and society… Resultantly, suicide and depression are low on the priority list of pressing issues. It is important that families and society start placing priority on these issues if they have to be hemmed in. Teachers should be trained to help youngsters to encourage them and help them fight depression. Regular psychology camps should be held at schools, colleges and universities to help students understand their problems and find a solution. The issue of depression is still seen as a taboo and that is where things need to shift, and people need to understand that it’s a disease which has a cure and there is no need to shoo it away”.
- Unemployment, a big cause
Junaid Elahi, a government employee, offers his analysis: “Unemployment is a major issue that threatens the mental well-being of a person, especially among males. At a certain age, you are expected to earn and support your family but if you cannot do that, you tend to become pessimistic and lose all hope and with that, feelings of being a burden creeps in to your thoughts and the easy solution one finds to get away from it all is silencing these thoughts forever by ending one’s life. I have friends who are unemployed who often say things like ‘I want to kill myself since I can’t do anything’ – which is very sad. We have educated intelligent people wanting to end their lives for not being able to get employment.”
- Performance pressure
Sahir Farooq, a student feels “one of the main reasons for suicide among students is the pressure they face from their teachers and families for average performance in studies. To handle this kind of mental crisis, teachers should be taught to become guidance counsellors so they can help students, even the most average ones, to realize their potential and thus help them focus better and get better with their studies. This is much better than making such students a subject of mockery or shame. Because it is this kind of humiliation that often leads to suicidal thoughts among school going children. And then, parents, instead of pushing their children to do better than others around them, actually need to be supportive of their children. Their comparing them with other children just pushes children into the tunnel of depression causing suicidal thoughts”.