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Thursday, July 31, 2008

suicide is not chosen.......

“Suicide is not chosen; it happens when pain exceeds resources for coping with pain"

That’s all it’s about. You are not a bad person, or crazy, or weak, or flawed, because you feel suicidal. It doesn’t even mean that you really want to die - it only means that you have more pain than you can cope with right now. Willpower has nothing to do with it. Of course you would cheer yourself up, if you could.

Don’t accept it if someone tells you, “that’s not enough to be suicidal about.” There are many kinds of pain that may lead to suicide. Whether or not the pain is bearable may differ from person to person. What might be bearable to someone else, may not be bearable to you. The point at which the pain becomes unbearable depends on what kinds of coping resources you have. Individuals vary greatly in their capacity to withstand pain.

When pain exceeds pain-coping resources, suicidal feelings are the result. Suicide is neither wrong nor right; it is not a defect of character; it is morally neutral. It is simply an imbalance of pain versus coping resources.

You can survive suicidal feelings if you do either of two things: (1) find a way to reduce your pain, or (2) find a way to increase your coping resources.
Both are possible!!!!!!!!!!!

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Chad Vara with the original helpline

Chad Varah said people must never be alone again and that people must always have someone to talk to in their darkest hour.
Chad Varah is considered a pioneer of talking therapies. Despite having no formal psychiatric qualifications, he initiated this form of support, based on his wider experience in the church, and through establishing the Samaritans service.
He found that if a distressed individual could be given time and be listened to, without judgement, they could start to find a way through even the most difficult feelings.Suicide was illegal in 1950s Britain, making the discussion of related thoughts and fears incredibly difficult for individuals.
Chad Varah’s ground-breaking approach to resolving this contributed immeasurably to fundamental changes in the law and attitudes towards this difficult subject.
Moreover, Chad’s role in creating an international network of charities to help people in emotional distress and at risk of suicide worldwide, means that it is no exaggeration to say that global society owes him its collective thanks.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Article in The Telegraph on Debt Suicides

The Telegraph, Calcutta
Debt deaths stalk cities too
Debt doesn’t drive just poor farmers to commit suicide — financial woes are fast becoming a major cause of suicide in urban India as well, Varuna Verma notes
Illustration: Suman choudhury, Imaging: M Iqbal Shaikh

Inspector Umesh Shet still recalls the horror on 14-year-old Shivamshu’s face as he watched his father, mother and sister being wheeled into Mangalore’s Wenlock Hospital on stretchers. “The boy was sobbing. He kept saying that he had betrayed his father,” recalls Shet, an official at the Mangalore North police station. Shivamshu’s father, Vijay Singh, had asked his son to swallow cyanide and kill himself.

A Bangalore-based scientist, Singh had run into a loss of Rs 47 lakh when a client in Delhi purchased medical equipment from him and did not pay up. “In his statement to the police, Shivamshu revealed that his father’s creditors had been harassing the family for the last six months,” says Shet.

Feeling cornered, Singh brought his family to Mangalore last month, purchased cyanide and chloroform and checked into a hotel. That evening, he told his family it was time to end it all. Singh, his wife Sumati and daughter Shruti gulped the cyanide and went to bed.

“Shivamshu, however, found the poison’s odour oppressive and opted out of the suicide pact,” says Shet. He spent the night watching his mother and sister writhe in pain and finally informed the hotel receptionist. Singh was declared dead on arrival at Wenlock Hospital. The other two have recovered.

Debt doesn’t drive just poor farmers to take their lives in India. Suicide prevention centres are finding that financial woes are fast becoming a major cause of suicide in urban India as well. An on-going study conducted by the Prerana Charitable Trust, a Mumbai-based non governmental organisation (NGO), has found that economic troubles are the second most common cause of suicide in the city. The study claims that while 21.2 per cent of people killed themselves because of illness last year, 8.9 per cent did so for money reasons and 5.7 per cent owing to relationship problems.

Amresh Shrivastava, executive director, Prerana, says debt suicides are a symptom of a developing society. “Social security is poor in developing countries. So a culture of mortgage, debt, borrowing and unemployment becomes a major reason for suicide,” says Shrivastava. Suicide statistics in the US and Canada show that financial problems are the eighth most common cause of suicide.

Tanushree Bose — a resident of Calcutta’s Swarnika apartments — thought gory family suicides happened only in the movies, till her “very normal, respectable and quiet” neighbours, Dipankar and Shubra Samaddar, were found hanging from ceiling fans one morning last month. Their 11-year-old son, Rohan, was lying dead on the bed, his mouth covered with froth and blood.

The police found that Dipankar had suffered huge losses in his construction business and had run up debts of over Rs 70 lakh.

It is not only businessmen who find themselves in impossible debt traps and enter into suicide pacts with their families. In February this year, Veerendra Kumar, deputy general manager, Bharat Heavy Electrical Limited (BHEL), Bangalore, and his wife, Usha, committed suicide because they couldn’t repay a loan of Rs 50 lakh. They left home one night, telling their daughter that they were going socialising. The next morning, the police found the couple dead on the rear seat of their car.

In urban India, debt suicides are usually a family affair. On the other hand, when farmers commit suicide, they do it alone. “An indebted farmer’s suicide results in government intervention. His loan is often waived. This is one factor that makes him take his life,” explains Rajasekharan Nair, secretary, Thrani, a Thiruvananthapuram-based suicide counselling centre.

These rules don’t apply to urban citizens. A debt-ridden businessman, for instance, knows his family will have to bear the burden of his unpaid loan. “To save his family from harassment, he takes everybody’s lives,” adds Nair.

A bank officer from Calicut, Venkat Mathew, had approached Thrani, complaining of severe depression. Mathew had taken a loan of Rs 8 lakh to start a business, which flopped. To repay the loan, he did some manipulation of the bank’s deposits, got caught and was suspended. “When the moneylenders started demanding money, Mathew and his wife felt cornered and went into depression,” says Nair. Two months ago, despite counselling, the couple killed their two children and then consumed poison themselves.

Aasra, a Mumbai-based suicide prevention NGO, claims to have recorded a 30 per cent increase in 10 years in the number of people who call because they are in a monetary mess and are contemplating suicide. Most of these people are young, ambitious, high spending and impatient to get rich, says Johnson Thomas, director, Aasra. “As the avenues for spending increase, most young Indians have started living beyond their means. This leads to debt, depression and suicide,” says Thomas.

Ajay Malhotra, spokesperson, Sumaitri, a Delhi-based suicide helpline, says that 15 per cent of the total suicide calls that Sumaitri receives are related to money troubles. Five years ago, such calls numbered less than 10 per cent.

It’s also about keeping up with the Chopras. “People want to keep up with their friends and neighbours. There is peer pressure to own what others do. And if they don’t have the money, then a conflict arises, which leads to stress and despair,” says Farokh Jijina, president, Befrienders India, part of a world-wide organisation for the lonely and suicidal.

Debt suicides are finding their way into small towns as well. A Jamshedpur-based NGO, Jeevan, tabulated the total suicides in the town from January to June this year. It found that economic problems were the third most common cause of suicide. Twenty per cent of suicide calls that Jeevan receives are related to financial troubles. “The reasons range from unemployment, inability to repay debts and frustration because of low salaries,” says Mahaveer Ram, director, Jeevan.

With 9,500 suicides last year, Kerala has the highest suicide rate in the country. “Debt is a very big problem in Kerala,” says Rajesh Pillai, director, Maithri, a Kochi-based suicide prevention centre. Travel through the state and you see palatial houses dotting the countryside. “People spend heavily on building houses, buying jewellery and in marriages,” says Pillai.

But what they spend is often borrowed money. Thirty-five per cent of the suicide calls that Maithri receives arise out of debt issues. “Debt is the second most common cause of suicide in the state,” says Pillai.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

High risk groups for suicide among teens

1.Adolescents who are physically or mentally disabled.
2.Adolescents who have a mental disorder, such as clinical depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, social anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Over 90% of teen suicide victims have a mental disorder, depression, or a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
3.Teenagers who have recently received a life-changing event, such as blindness, loss of limbs, deafness, and loss of a loved one.
4.Teenagers of conduct disorder (a high level of aggressiveness).
5.Teenagers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
Students who failed in school/exams.
Minority Indigenous adolescents, e.g. students belonging to ST.SC.NT catergory
6.Teenagers from emotionally dysfunctional families, where they do not feel safe to talk about things or show their true feelings, and where they are regularly invalidated.
7.Victims of bullying or domestic abuse.
8.Children of divorced parents.
9.Children with restrictive parents.
10.Children who are having difficulty with school work.

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Suicide Prevention is Everybody's responsibility

  1. Has debt-related suicide gone up in Indian towns and cities? Is this phenomenon on the rise?
Definitely if you include Farmer suicides. Debt related suicides has crossed 1,70,000 in eight states of India. You should watch the hindi film 'Summer 2007' which brings out this burning issue excellently.Debt related suicides are on the rise mainly because of globalisation leading to rampant urbanisation which has increased the difference, creating a huge divide between the haves and havenots, making it much more obvious and glaring. Agriculture is losing it's pre-eminent position of being a gainful occupation in modern India.More and more people from the villages are migrating to the cities and this has created a huge problem depleting the available labour force for agricultural purposes. The available labour has also upped it's demands and has therefore become unaffordable.Rising prices, lack of available infrastructure, global warming leading to climate change, a general leaning towards cash crop farming for quicker benefits, over-dependence on artificial fertilisers and seeds provided by the multinationals, the continued dependence on moneylenders for loans because bank loans are not that easy to come by and require paperwork are some of the major reasons why more and more farmers are resorting to suicide because they see no way out of the quagmire and choose death.
In the case of urban citified India the reasons are different. The booming economy has not resulted in an appreciable rise in incomes but instead there is a huge rise in prices of essential commodities. Add to that, items which were once regarded as luxuries are now becoming necessities.The media boom has resulted in a corresponding increase in visibility of such items and has therefore created aspirations that go far beyond the capabilities of the middleclass urban Indian.The increasing dependence on credit cards, bank loans and stock options( at times when the stock market is volatile) has destroyed many dreams by churning out instant failures.One day you are up the next you find yourself in the wilderness-all alone and up-to-your-neck in debt.Though there are many jobs available there is no job security. The minute a company experiences a downturn in it's fortunes , lay-offs become the rule rather than the exception.It's a familiar story and it's happening all over the is increasingly visible that young Indians have started living way beyond their means( Options for entertainment have also increased multifold) and this is also causing debt and depression among the citified population- resulting in suicide in a large number of cases.

In the past ten years since we began in 1998, there has been an appreciable rise in the number of callers who end-up destitute and ridden with debt. We have seen a 20-30 % increase in callers experiencing financial difficulties and contemplating suicide.
At AASRA our main aim is to prevent suicides and for that we offer a listening service that actively supports emotional ventilation. The idea is to get the caller to express his/her feelings and emotions without fear of judgement or criticism while retaining anonymity and assured of full confidentiality.Once the ventilation is completed the caller is more able to decide on a future course of action other than suicide.

Why do people who commit suicide due to mounting debt sign suicide pacts with their family? What is the psychology behind such suicide pacts?
It's the fear and anxiety that the family member would become vulnerable due to the mounting debts, that causes the debt ridden person to ensure that the family is free from such future trauma.Death ends it all afterall.

Case Study
1) A migrant from Bihar who used to purchase small plastic toys in bulk to sell at the melas suddenly found that his business was no longer in demand. The melas were no longer generating the crowds it used to earlier and the number and frequency of such social events had come down over the years. The 28 year old man had ageing parents to support and an unmarried sister anxiously awaiting his monthly remittances.He had in fact taken a loan of Rs.3000 before he ventured to do Business in Mumbai. He wasn't able to pay back the loan, his business was not generating enough money to sustain his own needs, he was kicked out of his shared accomodation for his inability to share in the expenses. He tried seeking gainful employment but no one was willing to hire an unknown entity . The general response he got from potential employers was that he should contavt them after a month or so. He tried begging for a while but it made him hate himself. He couldn't go back to his village because he could not face the money lender and the people of his village who had high expectations from him. He was highly distressed at the state of affairs. There really was nowhere for him to go from here. Confused, distressed, depressed, anxious, guilty, he was contemplating suicide when he read our ad in a Hindi daily.

2) A businessman friom jaipur who had 7 jewellery shops and a flourishing business a while back... he had entered into a collaboration with a supplier for gems and the business was flourishing. He had taken a huge loan but he had the required collateral and everything was going along fine when one day the karigars in his shop looted him, vanishing with the gemstones he had procured with great difficulty. he was distraught, there was no way he could pay-u the loans. He did not inform his family about his predicament. He tried to stave off the pressure by handing over the ownership of 6 shops to the bank. Yet there was somemore debt to be repaid and he was at his wits end. Then he read an article in thepaper that there was a great demand for kidneys in Mumbai. He decided to offer a kidney n return for payment of his debt. He came to Mumbai secretly and visited a few doctors in the business. He wasn't offered very much, He tried to contact some agents but that too was not fruitful He was at his wits end and contemplating suicide when he saw our number in the local newspaper.

Unfortunately the government is not interested in encouraging savings. Savings are taxed and the interest you earn from banks is very low. NGO's do not frame policies, the government does that. The loan waiver policy of the government has not reaped much dividends. Farmer suicides continue unabated. The government prefers people to keep buying so that it;s revenues increase. I really don't know of any policies that the government has instituted to prevent rise in debt and resultant suicide...