Health

Ill health is pushing people to suicides, mental illness among top worries

More than a sixth of suicides in India in 2016 due to health reasons

 
By Vibha Varshney
Last Updated: Wednesday 13 November 2019
Suicide. Photo: Getty Images

More than a sixth of suicides in India were due to ‘illness’, according to data recently released by the National Crime Records Bureau. Mental health issues could have played a large role in this, the data indicated.

The need to prevent suicides has drawn little attention in the country though they outstrip the combined toll of AIDS and maternal death. Reducing the count by a third by 2030 is among the United Nations-mandated Sustainable Development Goal.

In 2016, ‘insanity’ or mental illness, cancer, paralysis and sexually transmitted diseases such as AIDS were among the major health issues that pushed people to take their lives. Alarmingly, 932 in the category were not yet adults.

Cause

Below 18 years

18 – Below 30 years

30 yrs. – Below 45 years

45 yrs. – Below 60 years

60 years & above

Illness (total)

932

5297

6737

5611

3834

AIDS/STD

4

42

97

35

20

Cancer 

5

110

246

320

194

Paralysis 

14

117

 209

 245

157

Insanity/ mental illness

411

2329

2733

1987

1167

An estimated 150 million Indians live with mental health disorders; only one in 10 get necessary treatment. This treatment gap could be contributing to the high suicide rate.

In 2018, the Union government brought the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 into effect. It decriminalised suicide and was aimed to reduce stress on victims. The law also sought free healthcare, treatment, and rehabilitation, but supporting infrastructure has been scarce. Budgetary support has been paltry too.

Vice-president M Venkaiah Naidu once admitted that high out-of-pocket expenses for mental health treatment impeded access to treatment. Public healthcare needed to be strengthened, he said while inaugurating the 19th Annual Conference of Indian Association of Private Psychiatry in November 2018.

Until that was done, medical insurance should cover psychiatric disorders.

India recorded 1,31,008 suicides in 2016, a 2 per cent dip from 2015. ‘Illness’ accounted for 17.1 per cent suicides, led only by ‘family problems’ (other than marriage-related) at 29.2 per cent.

Twelve States and Union Territories reported to be higher than the All India average in suicides due to “illness”. 

State

No. of suicides

Share (in %)

Andhra Pradesh

2,002

33.0

Tamil Nadu

3,983 

26.2

Goa

67 

24.5

Karnataka

2,567 

24.0

Sikkim

60 

22.8

Kerala 

1,734 

22.5

Puducherry 

122 

21.7

Gujarat

1,677 

21.7

Madhya Pradesh

2,249 

21.5

Mizoram

25 

20.2

Punjab

283 

19.7

Maharashtra 

3,154 

18.3

The average rate of suicides (per one lakh people) was 10.3, but it was much higher in some states and Union territories such as Sikkim (40.5), Puducherry (33.3), Andaman and Nicobar Islands (26.4), Chhattisgarh (25.8) and Telangana (24.5).

Among states with a significant jump in suicides were Nagaland (61.9 per cent), Jharkhand (54.7 per cent), Punjab (37.3 per cent), Himachal Pradesh (18.2 per cent) and Delhi (16.8 per cent). Sharp drops were recorded in Uttarakhand (68 per cent), Dadra and Nagar Haveli (48.1 per cent), Lakshadweep (40 per cent), Puducherry (21.1 per cent) and Bihar (20.3 per cent).

The report, however, did not offer any reason for these.

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