17.1% of suicides in 2019 linked to illnesses

Of the total 1,39,123 suicide cases reported in India during 2019, 17.1% were due to fear, pain, anxiety and stress caused by illness.

According to the recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, 23,830 people in the country suffering from various ailments, including cancer, AIDS and paralysis, chose to end their lives in 2019. In fact, after family problems, which accounts for 32.4% of the total suicides, illness is one of the major causes that pushed people to the edge.

Two States

Maharashtra and Karnataka had the highest number of suicides linked to illness in 2019 with 3,507 and 3,166, respectively. Manipur and Nagaland had the least number with two and three persons, respectively, choosing to end their lives due to illness here. Maharashtra and Karnataka had the highest suicide of persons suffering from paralysis with 244 and 108 cases, respectively.

The COVID-19 pandemic also had profound psychological and social effects on people across the country. While there is no data on COVID-19 related suicides, five of the 19 deaths of COVID-19 patients in Karnataka categorised as “due to non-COVID causes” are suicides.

According to K.V. Trilok Chandra, who heads the State’s Critical Care Support Unit (CCSU), one patient each ended his/her life in the State-run Victoria, Bowring and Lady Curzon and K.C. General hospitals, and one each took the extreme step in Mangaluru and Gadag.

“The other non-COVID deaths are due to road traffic accidents and poisoning among other causes,” he said.

Mental health counselling has been integrated into treatment now to mitigate the psychological impact and video calls to families are allowed from wards.

G. Gururaj, Senior Professor in the Department of Epidemiology at NIMHANS, said suicides are linked to a number of physical and mental health conditions, especially in terminal stages. The risk is associated to be higher with certain chronic conditions such as cancer, brain injury, HIV/AIDS, multiple comorbid conditions. Mental health conditions like depression, mood disorders, substance use disorders and psychosis carry a higher risk of suicide, he said.

He pointed out that the nature and extent of suicidal attempts and acts depends on a number of factors like age, gender, nature of medical problem, understanding of the disease by the individual and family, stigmatising nature of illness, extent of pain, disability and distress and others. Many times, availability and affordability of medical care and mental health services makes a significant impact on whether to live or not, he noted.

Multiple factors

“The unusual and unexpected COVID-19 brought a wide range of things together at one point of time like disease per se, fear, anxiety, frustration, panic, limited medical care in the early stages of pandemic, stigma towards illness, financial distress due to loss of job and income, loss of family support and social isolation of individuals within homes,” Dr. Gururaj pointed out.

He said health services and professionals need to respond better in these situations while dealing with chronic terminally ill and at times even with those of acute conditions.

Apart from providing improved medical and mental health care to the best possible extent, psychosocial support on a continuous basis through communication and counselling has to be integrated into hospital and public health care systems, he added.

The article has been corrected for a spelling error.

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Printable version | Oct 22, 2020 3:56:11 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/karnataka/171-of-suicides-in-2019-linked-to-illnesses/article32564932.ece

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