The Ministry of Health and Family Welfare on Monday announced a National Suicide Prevention Strategy, the first of its kind in the country, with time-bound action plans and multi-sectoral collaborations to achieve reduction in suicide mortality by 10% by 2030.
The strategy broadly seeks to establish effective surveillance mechanisms for suicide within the next three years, establish psychiatric outpatient departments that will provide suicide prevention services through the District Mental Health Programme in all districts within the next five years, and to integrate a mental well-being curriculum in all educational institutions within the next eight years. It envisages developing guidelines for responsible media reporting of suicides, and restricting access to means of suicide.
The stress is on developing community resilience and societal support for suicide prevention. While the strategy is in line with the WHO’s South East-Asia Region Strategy for suicide prevention, it says it will remain true to India’s cultural and social milieu.
In a note, Health Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said: “Further efforts are now required to prevent suicides as a public health priority. Suicides impact all sections of the society and thus require concerted and collaborative efforts from individuals and the community at large.”
In India, more than one lakh lives are lost every year to suicide, and it is the top killer in the 15-29 years category. In the past three years, the suicide rate has increased from 10.2 to 11.3 per 1,00,000 population, the document records. The most common reasons for suicide include family problems and illnesses, which account for 34% and 18% of all suicide-related deaths.
Psychiatrist Lakshmi Vijayakumar, founder of Sneha Foundation, who is credited with writing the first draft of the strategy said, “The most important thing is that the government has acknowledged that suicide is a problem... We now have a plan, a rather well-conceived plan involving multi-sectoral collaborations, because the only way a strategy would work would be to involve various sectors,” she said.
The strategy should now be passed on to the States for them to develop locally relevant action plans; and then cascade to the district, primary health and community levels, she added.
Those in distress could seek help and counselling by calling helplines from this link.