Suicide Solutions: The Impact of a Suicide on Family Members

Posted on August 23, 2011 in Society

By Pratham Karkare:

“Abasement, degradation is simply the manner of life of the man who has refused to be what it is his duty to be.” - Jose Ortegay Gasset

A lot of things died for Sunita that day along with her abusive, less than utilitarian husband. The dreams of a secure future and that of sending her children to college all burnt away in that holocaust which her husband set upon himself.

Sunita is the only daughter of our maid servant, Parvati, who’s been with us since I was two and who is no less than a family member to us. Sunita was born and brought up in the slums of Bhopal. Unplanned and poverty-stricken, these slums house some of the most traditional and destructive ideas, still prevalent today, where a girl-child is seen fit only to cook food and raise children. However, Sunita had the aptitude and the courage to break free. She managed to pass 10th standard, but she was forced to drop school after that as she had to help her aging mother in her household chores who until then had the sole responsibility of cleaning the house and cooking food for her four sons, Sunita’s brothers.

Six years later, she got married and soon enough Sunita was a mother of two.  Her husband, a watchman by profession, was an alcohol addict and an abusive person who was as incompetent at his job of being watchman as he was being a husband and a father. Due to his less-than-socially-acceptable behavior, her husband lost his job and the burden of raising two children and feeding an incompetent husband came upon the shoulders of brave Sunita. Her husband turned more and more abusive and on a baneful night, following a huge fight, under the influence of alcohol, her husband locked himself in room and in the presence of his younger child, took away his life.

What followed was a series of police investigations, societal abandonment and endless finger pointing at brave Sunita who wanted nothing more than to give her children the life and opportunities that she never had.

Sunita is only one of the many sufferers of this fateful idea of taking ones’ own life. According to WHO statistics, one person commits suicide every forty seconds. Suicide rates all over the world have increased by 5- 62% in the last two decades. In India, one person commits suicide every four minutes. It is not difficult to realize that when a member of the family kills himself, he not only brings shame upon his family but also ends up creating a financial and a mental void amongst the members of his family. In a country like India, which has a history of social abandonment, a widow whose husband has killed himself is looked down upon with great despise. Intervention by police, with self interest as the main motive, causes great distress to the sufferer, especially the poverty-stricken who can be easily exploited for money. Their experiences of grief and trauma are not supported.

A suicide in the family can be a very frightening and confusing event for a child and can have everlasting effects on his mental development. A child, regardless of age, will always be a part of the parent and the presence of both a mother and a father contribute to the overall development of the child. The loss of one can be very degrading.

The financial problems that follow a suicide can be the breaking point for many. For a low income family, a house is financially stable, only when both the members of the family contribute. The loss of one not only has a huge burden on the other but can also demean the already degrading financial conditions of the family.

I met Sunita a month after the incident. Her elder son refuses to go to school and Sunita is presently staying with her mother and trying to find work, so that she can earn enough money to send her sons to school and see to that her sons get a life where they don’t end up like their father.