There has been a spate of suicides by youngsters ever since the year began.
Shoma A. Chatterji tries to analyse the
factors behind the malady
(To be) threatened
with tomorrow’s zero...is profoundly insulting...I sentence
this nature, which has so unceremoniously and impudently brought
me into existence...to annihilation...and because I am unable to
destroy nature, I am destroying only myself, weary of enduring a
tyranny in which there is no guilty one.
in Diary of a Writer
||Eleven-year-old Neha Sawant, who had participated in three TV dance reality shows, hung herself with a dupatta at home in Thane. Her parents had stopped her from participating in more such shows as her academic grades were falling and had pulled her out of the dance academy
3 Idiots, a scathing indictment on the numbers-chasing,
grades-grabbing rigid education system, a talented youngster,
Joy, commits suicide because the principal of the elite
engineering college refuses to accept his invention of an
innovative project as part of his assignment. The wall behind
the hanging body is filled with two words, scribbled in large
letters – I QUIT.
This was a film.
Reality is more brutal, merciless and irreversible.
Eighteen-year-old Grenville Gomes could not gain admission to
any college after he passed his board exams with 53 per cent. He
slashed his wrists with a knife. And to make sure he died, he
also hanged himself, that too on his 18th birthday. "The
reason given was that there were no vacant seats. But he had
been told that there were agents operating in some of these
colleges who could help him buy a seat anywhere between Rs 5,000
and Rs 35,000," said his older brother, Recton. Grenville
had also burnt his certificates before ending his life. In a
suicide note to his mother, he wrote, "Mummy, I wanted to
live." This happened in 1995 in Mumbai.
- Share your thoughts and feelings with people who you think will understand your pain. If there is nobody you can trust, meet a professional counsellor, who would be non-judgmental and objective.
- Set realistic goals and standards. Stop, if you think or see yourself pushing beyond the limits.
- Set aside time for leisure and relaxation. It would help you to stay fresh and prevent burn out.
- Always think positive and be rational. Remember, one failure is in no way a reflection of what you are in totality. Failing an exam or an interview is not the end of the world — look beyond.
- Give yourself an opportunity to explore and discover yourself. Get experimental and do things that you haven’t tried before. It may be a hobby, a new skill or an adventure trip — you might just learn more about yourself and your talent that improves your sense of self-worth.
— Dr Sanjay Chugh
Flash forward to
Neha Sawant hung herself with a dupatta at her home in
Thane. She had participated in three TV dance reality shows. But
her parents had stopped her from participating in more such
shows as her academic grades were falling and had pulled her out
of the dance academy. Fourteen-year-old Rupali Shinde committed
suicide by hanging herself at her Thane home. Seventeen-year-old
Reshma Dhotre killed herself at her Mulund residence in Mumbai.
Dhanashree Patil, a former student of Amritvahini College of
Engineering in Sangamner (Ahmednagar), ended her life in Nashik.
Twenty-year-old MBBS Part-I student, Bhajanpreet Bhullar of D.Y.
Patil College (Navi Mumbai), killed herself. Thirteen-year-old
Sushant Patil hanged himself in the toilet of Shardashram Boys
High School (Dadar). Seventeen-year-old Vineet More, too, hanged
himself. Eighteen-year-old Vrushali Kale was found hanging from
the ceiling of her hostel room in DP Institute of Nursing in
Haveli, on the outskirts of Pune. Twentyone-year-old Prajakta K.
Kshatriya was found hanging in her home in Sinnar, Nashik.
Investigations suggest she took the step after performing badly
in her third year graduation examinations. All these deaths
happened between January 2 and 8.
These suicides are
symptoms of a dreaded, hidden and undiagnosed social disease
that has taken root and is slowly spreading to infect those left
behind. According to figures by the National Crime Records
Bureau of the Home Ministry, 13 out of every 100 suicides are by
teenagers. However, it gives no figures for attempted suicide,
which could be in multiples of the actual suicide figures. The
last available report (2007) on Accidental Deaths and
Suicides in India prepared by the National Crime Records
Bureau shows West Bengal leading the country, with 419
children up to 14 having killed themselves, followed by Andhra
Pradesh (315) and Madhya Pradesh (205). Most deaths are related
to the pressure of examinations. West Bengal children are
especially prone to this pressure because, "our
socio-economic aspirations are inextricably linked to
education," says economist Avirup Sarkar.
co-founder of the Los Angeles Suicide Prevention Centre, points
out four common factors: the first is inimicality, hostility
against oneself. The second is perturbation, a state of extreme
anxiety, with the feeling of being closed in, having no way out.
The third is constriction, with the suicidal person’s
perceptions narrowing into a tunnel vision where the mind
focusses only on one unendurable emotion. The last is cessation,
death as the only way out. Each of these teenage suicides could
be fitted into either of these descriptions, thus blurring,
beyond recognition, all attempts to identify specific causes.
According to figures given by the National Crime Records Bureau of the Home Ministry, 13 out of every 100 suicides are by teenagers.
importance is given to education in our country. The pressure to
excel and become a success is huge, which only deepens the
competitive feeling. People’s identities are measured only by
their grades, degrees, educational institutes, where they study
or the companies they work for. Thus, from a very early age,
children are trained to judge themselves by their academic
performance and not looking at the complete picture," says
Dr Sanjay Chugh, a Delhi-based senior consultant and neuro-psychiatrist.
adolescent suicides, say psychiatrists, are not triggered by
identifiable psychiatric disorders but are more stress-related.
These suicides are the result of an environmentally induced
stressful situation or event, which makes the person helpless
and vulnerable. Overcome by negative feelings, they decide to
take their own life.
often the result of a society in transition," says Dr
Shekhar Sheshadri, professor at the child and adolescent
psychiatry department, National Institute of Mental Health and
Neuro-Sciences (NIMHANS). He added that in Kolkata alone, there
were around 12,000 to 15,000 attempted suicides in the 18 -25
age-group. A report published in the official journal of the
Central Social Welfare Board shows that 60 per cent of Indians,
who commit suicide, are below 30 years and about 40 per cent are
below 18.Youth is more prone to despair and have lower levels of
tolerance to endure pain, the report said.
Kerala had a
dubious world record of 27 out of every 1,00,000 persons
committing suicide every day in 1994. A majority of those
persons belonged to the 18-20 age-group, totalling a staggering
2,824 suicides out of the total number of suicides. Dr V.
Suraraj Mani, Chief, department of psychiatry, General Hospital,
Kerala Health Services, Thiruvananthapuram, says: "Kerala,
more than any other state, had very rapid urbanisation. This has
led to a radical change in the value systems, especially of the
younger generation. This change has led to mental stress. The
other factor is the collapse of the joint family system. Members
of a joint family can share their problems among themselves. But
in a nuclear family, each member is condemned to suffer his or
her burden privately. There is no meaningful interaction between
parents and the children or even between the husband and wife.
When the pressure becomes too much for one individual, the
suicidal tendency is bound to develop."
education is a major trigger for teenage and child suicides. Ten
students in Thiruvananthapuram killed themselves soon after the
SSC results were declared in 1992. The fear of failure or of not
getting high marks causes severe stress. Parents drive the
children hard. Teachers put pressure. Children are tormented by
a sense of guilt when they fail to live up to their parents’
expectations. It is this guilt that drives them to suicide than
actual failure or fear of failure in examinations.
Durkheim, in his book Suicide (1897), stated that
the suicidal tendency is the result of collective forces
acting upon the individual and its strength varies
inversely with the degree of cohesion that exists in
society. The current spate of teenage and adolescent
suicides could be said to be a blend of egoistic and
anomic suicide. Egoistic because suicide-prone teenagers
are very self-centred, individualistic and have a reduced
immunity against "collective suicidal
inclination." And anomic because our society —
parents, peer group, school and friends — is no longer
able to anticipate, understand and control these actions.
are often vulnerable to impulsive suicides. Nine-year-old
Deepak wanted to accompany his father who was going out to
buy a pair of shoes for him. The father said no. By the
time he returned with the shoes, the boy had hanged
himself from the ceiling fan. Another boy studying in
Class XII hanged himself when his father’s friend met
him at the local theatre where, having skipped classes, he
had gone to watch an adult English film. He had feared
that the friend might complain to his father.
Of the 1
million cases of suicides reported the world over in 2000,
over 1 lakh were in India. In 1989, a suicide was
attempted every 7.6 minutes; today, it occurs every five
minutes. With a suicide being committed every fifth minute
and about 15 attempts being made for every suicide
committed, India faces a major crisis.
Choosing to Live-Guidelines for Suicide Prevention
Counselling in Domestic Violence
by Aruna Burte, Sangeeta Rege, Padma Deosthali
In 1995, there
were a number of teenage suicides in Mumbai after the SSC and
HSC results. The LTMG hospital in Sion registered nine attempted
suicides by students. Three SSC students (all girls), two
engineering students (a boy and girl), three B.A. students (all
girls) and a boy studying in Class VIII were the victims. Only
one, the boy from the engineering college, died. All these
cases, except for the three girls doing their B.A., were related
to academic stress. The three undergraduate girls, one Christian
and two Muslim, were listed as ‘social problems.’
Ironically, the girl, who anticipated failure at the SSC exams
and died after taking poison, passed the exam.
One reason given
for the high rate of teenage suicides in India is the rapid
social and political transformation. The culture of violence and
corruption spreads through cinema, the media and the body
politic enhances negative influences pervading a society, in
general, and the family, in particular. Nuclear families,
working couples, consumerism and the influx of global culture
means parents, who become the victims of stress, transfer much
of it to their offspring. They do not give themselves or their
children enough space to understand each other. Parenting
against the backdrop of an upwardly mobile consumerist culture
is equated with the quantity of material comforts and luxuries
it can provide the younger ones in the family instead of
sustaining a relationship of mutual love, understanding, empathy
Vadakkumcherry, retired trainer at Police Training College,
Thiruvananthapuram, says that television and homework have
snuffed out family prayers in the Christian family. Children
grow up without imbibing life-supporting values and "in the
face of challenges, they choose the easy and comforting option
of suicide." Dr Ranjit Basu, a behavioural psychologist and
professor of applied psychology, University of Calcutta, singles
out academic pressure as the major culprit. "The most
significant reason is the hyper-competitive educational system.
The competitiveness begins even before a child starts school.
The pressure increases at the college level and this is one
reason why so many engineering and medical students attempt
force people to attempt or commit suicide could be external or
internal. For many people standard of performance and evaluation
is too high, failure in which leads to a sense of shame and
worthlessness. Suicide might just be their way of punishing
themselves. For others, it is the high expectations of parents,
teachers, employers and relatives that place them under enormous
pressure to perform and excel. Failure to perform reflects
negatively on one’s self-worth and ability and the inability
to handle the emotional pain that stems out of this might just
make living too suffocating and stressful," Dr Chugh
"I do not
like this life. Therefore, I am ending it. Nobody should cry
over my death. I do not like the school. The marks I am getting
are too less," wrote one boy in his suicide note. The note
spells out its own sad story.