The country witnessed 1.34 lakh suicides in 2018, according to the Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India 2018 report released by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) on Friday.
And while Nagaland recorded the least number of such cases among states in the country (36), even one is too much.
Suicide is never easy. It is never easy to cope with the aftermath of a suicide, regardless of who committed suicide. It is also difficult because suicide often raises more questions than answers: Why? They had all the money and success anyone could dream of, so why did they commit suicide? Why didn't they seek help? Why did it have to end like this? Didn’t they think about how it would affect their family? How could they be so selfish?
All these questions often leave those who have been left behind more frustrated, and with even more questions.
One thing is certain: any suicide is devastating. However, refraining from talking about or trying to understand the event would also be equally devastating.
Despite the NCRB data, It is difficult to gauge the real figure due to potential underreporting, which may be linked to the social stigma surrounding death by suicide and mental illness. Death by suicide, especially in society’s like ours, is still considered taboo and “sinful”. The stigma can be so strong that, following the suicide of a relative, a family might report the death as anything but suicide.
However, trying to brush the issue aside will not change anything. Change will come from doing the opposite: The more we talk about suicide to try and understand it, the more we become aware of the need to make mental healthcare accessible, the more we can prevent suicide.
Reach out when you sense that someone might be in trouble. Social isolation is listed as one of the highest risk factors for suicide. The worst thing you can be is wrong, and there’s no shame in that. Reach out when you don’t hear from someone, when they turn down invitations, when they seem to be walking into the shadows.
And when someone asks for help, step up.
Oh, and help is not just using a Twitter hashtag that gets lots of traction for a day or two every year. Awareness, and action, about suicide prevention has to be much, much more.
Comments can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org