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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...



reena said...

Hi, Johnson what u say is so true....
as i work with the youth ive been concerned with the increase in teen suicides...
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.

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