Spiralling Crisis Chennai

Spate of suicides

The suicide by the couple who jumped off Thiru-Vi-Ka bridge was the third such incident in the past week. Photo: M. Moorthy  

Last week, a couple jumped off Thiru-Vi-Ka Bridge into the Adyar River, and ended their lives. This was the third such incident that week.

Why drowning? And why does it keep happening?

Experts say that while drowning is not the commonest method of committing suicide in Tamil Nadu, the act of jumping off a bridge tends to be copied by people, leading to a spate of such incidents.

“People who are conflicted and in deep despair tend to follow blindly what they see or hear. That method becomes a model for them, and since in their condition, judgement and reasoning are impaired, it may seem like the best method to them,” said S. Nambi, professor of psychiatry, Sree Balaji Medical College and Hospital, here.

In Chennai, there are some bridges that have become hotspots, said Lakshmi Vijayakumar, founder, Sneha suicide prevention centre. “The Adyar bridge is one, as is the Kotturpuram bridge and another in Royapuram. When one person jumps off the bridge and the incident is highlighted in the media, many more tend to copy it. There have been cases where people have come from Triplicane or north Chennai to use the Kotturpuram bridge,” she said.

After Carnatic vocalist Nithyasree’s husband Mahadevan jumped to his death from Kotturpuram bridge in December 2012, there were seven suicides in the year that followed from the same bridge, said Dr. Lakshmi.

“In the last 10 years, there have been about 20 suicides from Kotturpuram bridge and about eight from Adyar bridge,” she said.

According to a senior police officer, even though Adyar River is nearly 20 feet deep, in a lot of cases, death occurs due to victims getting stuck in the river’s sludge. “When they jump in, panic sets in. That causes them to go under and often, they get stuck in the sludge and cannot move. This also makes it difficult to retrieve the bodies,” he said.

The simplest solution is to raise the heights of these bridges in a way that does not detract from the aesthetic view, experts say. This could be in the form of a grille with spikes or rods, so that the view is still available. While an attempt has been made with Kotturpuram bridge, others also need to be tackled urgently, they say.

Suicide pacts

When two or more people commit suicide together as was the case last week, it is known as a suicide pact. These are different from individual suicides. “While individuals commit suicide in despair because of mostly personal reasons, suicide pacts are almost always due to social reasons,” said Dr. Lakshmi.

These could be poverty, debt, a feeling of being a burden upon the family or being ashamed to face society for some reason. “In suicide pacts, the people are angry with society or feel bad about living in such a society,” she said.

In India, about one per cent of all suicides fall into this category, and they are mostly committed by young people: lovers, couples, sisters and in some cases, murder-suicides where parents kill the children and then themselves, she said.

“In some cases, one person could be forced, while in others, both plan and commit the act together,” said Dr. Nambi.

In general, both people are not equally suicidal – one person has more dominant suicidal thoughts, but slowly influences the other person until finally both commit suicide together, said Dr. Lakshmi.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau’s statistics for 2014:

No. of suicides in Tamil Nadu: 16,122 (this was the second-highest in the country)

Maharashtra recorded the highest number of suicides with 16, 307

West Bengal had the third highest number: 14,310

Tamil Nadu accounted for 12.2 per cent of the suicides in the country in 2014, a decrease from 12.3 per cent in 2013 and 14.0 per cent in 2012.

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Printable version | May 8, 2021 10:55:42 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/cities/chennai/spate-of-suicides/article7516634.ece

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