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India’s Mental Health Hit Rock Bottom, And We’re Still Lying There

Did you know that suicide is the biggest cause of deaths among youth in India? According to a 2014 report, about 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, of these, 17% (that’s 135,000 people) are from India. Between 1987 and 2007, the suicide rate increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000 people, with higher suicide rates in southern and eastern states of India.

Hold on. I know what you did there. Yes, you! You, my reader, with your screen in front of you, gazing at all these facts and figures. You skimmed right through all of it, didn’t you? You la-la’d your way to the end of the paragraph when you saw those figures scattered across my article, didn’t you?

Perhaps this thought crossed your mind, ‘here’s just another writer talking about stuff no one’s going to remember afterwards’. The truth is, you don’t care about numbers or statistics, and I know it. The number of people who have attempted suicide and those who killed themselves has reached its zenith. But all of that is just ‘n’ number of digits for you, and it doesn’t make a difference in your life.

But hear this: A 14-year-old girl died a horrendous death when she hung herself from a ceiling fan with her mom’s dupatta. Her parents found her body, tiny for her age, with all the life sucked out of it. They mourned. What they didn’t realise is that their daughter had stopped living way before the day she committed suicide. She had been dead inside for a very long time.

Did that have an impact on you, dear reader? Or was that tragedy just another death among a million more? The problem with us Indians is, we don’t take mental health seriously. It’s not a part of our ‘well-being’ curriculum. Every hour, one student commits suicide in India. We have news reports scrawled all over newspapers, but if you look closely, they are just a bunch of facts, insensitively reported without a mention of the mental health of the victim. Disregarding mental health even after reading how a victim was disturbed enough to commit suicide is just plain nonsensical.

I’ve read articles on suicide almost daily in extremely popular newspapers. And I’ve seen how reporters crave absolutely any definite reason behind the ‘accident’. If a girl committed suicide, it’s mostly assumed there’s a jilted lover involved.

Take the report on the IIT aspirant (left). This is a very clear example of how suicide is reported in our country. The reason offered was the person in question “had been upset after scoring poorly in monthly test”.

Too often, reporters don’t even try to highlight the issue of mental health or what mental turmoil a person must have gone through before deciding that their life isn’t worth living.

Given how often we read about it, is suicide really that small of an epidemic? Do we humans, being ‘rational’ in nature, even for a moment consider reasons above and beyond the one printed in the report above? You don’t just kill yourself over marks, it goes much deeper than that.

The first thing that we can do is create awareness, laying the groundwork for publicly accepting how big of an issue depression is. Raising the issue on social media can be a huge step towards igniting consciousness amongst the minds of many. The second step is informing people through public posts about how depression isn’t all ‘in the victim’s head’ but an actually scientifically proven illness which needs to be attended to.

I recently created a campaign urging people to put a hashtag in their Instagram bios. That hashtag is #MyDoorIsAlwaysOpen. It means you will always be ready to talk to anyone who’s feeling depressed and lonely.

It’s hard to get access to good, certified therapists or proper help, but once we start being there for each other, we put in place a community of concerned people looking out for each other!

There are times when all you need is someone who will listen, someone who won’t judge, someone who knows how exactly it feels to want to die and live at the same time. The campaign garnered a good response. Online campaigns like these need to reach a wider audience. More importantly, it must reach those not found on social media through word-of-mouth. It’ll be a beginning to something revolutionary.

Indeed, there is a stigma attached to mental health and all its characteristics in our country. But with so many reported suicides, isn’t it time for us to grow up and get over our narrow-mindedness? Yes, it definitely is! We have hit rock bottom and it’s time to stop lying there. It’s time to get up and free ourselves from the clutches of mental health stereotypes. It’s time to embrace and understand the intricacies of human psychology.

There are thousands of young people who go through this. The young girl whose parents found her. Dalit rights activist Rohit Vemulas. And they are more than just numbers. They are human beings with personalities and stories. They carry the burden of depression and they were thrown over the edge because of our lack of seriousness about this issue.

These names, these numbers, they were forgotten. But not anymore. Not after today. So, keep your doors open. Because we will take this epidemic head on!

Image for representation only. Source: Spencer Platt/Getty Images
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  1. Dr Radhika

    It is a very important and relevant article. Depression and suicides are indeed major health issues which often go unnoticed till the end. As you say creating awareness in the form of blogs are an important place to start. Thank you for highlighting this issue
    Chennai Minds
    Mental Health Clinic

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