Rising suicidal tendencies in Kashmir youth

Rising suicidal tendencies in Kashmir youth


The Oxford dictionary defines suicide as following:

  1. The action of killing oneself intentionally.
    Under this definition, it may not be accepted to say that rather than killing oneself intentionally, it should have been killing oneself unintentionally.

Though there are certain cases, where even no intentions are involved. It’s about managing our emotional experiences. It’s not about consequences and punishment, but releasing emotions that hold us back, and releasing those emotions in the form of our dead bodies, no matter intentionally or unintentionally.

Research in the area of suicide has become critical in recent years. Suicide and its related issues have become a major concern for global health educators. Suicide is a major public health threat and the World Health Organization estimates that annually about 800,000 people worldwide complete suicide (WHO;2014). This study was conducted with the aim to understand the prevalence of suicide ideation and suicide attempts among Kashmiri youth. The sample of the study consisted of 769 youth in the age range of 15-25 (Mean Age-19 years). Beck’s Scale for Suicide Ideation (SSI) (Beck, Steer, & Ranieri, 1988) was used to measure suicide ideation among youth and Self Injurious Thoughts and Behaviours Interview (SITBI) Schedule, (Nock, Holmberg, Photos, & Michel, 2007) was used to assess suicide attempts. The results of the study showed 29.3% of sample group fall as ideators and almost 9.75% of respondents have attempted suicide.

(Data abstracted from international journal of humanities and social science research).

In a seminal piece on suicide and language, Sommer – Rottenburg (1998) singles out “commit suicide” as particularly repugnant. She admits to not having given the phrase much thought, until the meaning of the words resonated fully when her own son killed himself. She then discovered how the aforementioned words were perpetuating the stigma (Sommer – Rottenburg, p.239). To “commit” suicide has criminal overtones which refer to a past time when it was illegal to kill oneself. Committing suicide was akin to committing murder or rape; linguistically, therefore, they are still linked. The original notoriety of the word may have dulled over time but the underlying residue remains.

In 2005 the Alberta Mental Health Board began a campaign as part of their provincial suicide prevention strategy, that addressed the language of suicide and, subsequently, offered preferred alternatives to the standard phrases. They recommend the replacement of phrases such as “completed” or “committed suicide” with the more neutral, if blunt, “death by suicide”, “died by suicide” and “suicide.”

According to national human rights commission, it’s estimated that more than 60,000 lives have been lost in our territory since militancy erupted in 1988, the suicide toll through the years runs into thousands, it highlighted.

In recent years the people between the age group of 25 to 44 have surpassed the suicide rates of older adults. Though, in the most recent times, people below the age of 25 have tremendously shown an increase in the the suicide rates, making a difficulty for the researchers to analyse the age groups with high suicide rates. From homemakers to students to military and paramilitary workers, suicides have been a major cause of deaths. Reasons may be numerous, identified or unidentified or even identified but hidden. Family disputes, non- payment of wages to the people working in private as well as government sectors, unemployments, difficulty in career planning of students, failure in exams, inequality issues and what not. Infact the farmers who are nor eventually able to gain some profit out of thier hardwork, most of the times take to suicides and the major cause being the poverty. Medical issues, depression and anxiety issues, intake of drugs and even illicit trafficking, are the reasons in majority of the cases. Affairs between the opposite genders, extra marital affairs can be seen as a growing cause in this regard, and eventually ruining a number of lives. These are the most common of the reasons for why people tend to kill themselves. To this list, I can add a number of more reasons that are exclusively the ones found in Kashmir only. This includes the suicides due to the ongoing turmoil in the territory which is obviously a reason for the death of hundreds of civilians annually.

Kashmiris are reportedly said to be highly prone to suicidal tendencies due to the conflict-situations. The fear, stress, tension, and uncertainty prevailing in the state are said to be the main reasons for this. According to a survey in 2012, 17,000 people, mostly women, have committed suicide during the past 20 years in the Valley. According to a study by the Medecins Sans Frontieres,

“Women in Kashmir have suffered enormously since the separatist struggle became violent in 1989–90. Like the women in other conflict zones, they have been raped, tortured, maimed, and killed. A few of them were even jailed for years together. Kashmiri women are among the worst sufferers of sexual violence in the world. Sexual violence has been routinely perpetrated on Kashmiri women, with 11.6% of respondents saying they were victims of sexual abuse”.

Due to the impact of the conflict, a number of people in the valley suffer from various psychological problems like stress (normal or related to traumatic event), anxiety, mood, and post-traumatic disorders. At the beginning of the insurgency, there were 1200 patients in the valley’s sole mental hospital. In 2016, the hospital is said to have been overcrowded with more than 100,000 patients. And ofcourse eventually and ultimately, most of these patients would be reluctant to kill themselves.

In 2020, research demonstrated that stigmatizing and other verbiage commonly used in regard to suicide, such as reporting or sharing the method of suicide leads to a 13% increase in the national suicide rate following highly publicized (celebrity) suicides as well as a 30% increase in suicides completed in the same method as the public figure.

If we see through the religious aspects, we find the following extracts:

“And do not kill the soul which Allah has forbidden [to be killed] except by [legal] right. This has He instructed to you that you nay use reasons.” [Quran 6:151]

“Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” [Corinthians 6:19-20]

“Let him not desire to die, let him not desire to live, let him wait for his appointed time, like a servant waits dir tge payment of his wages.” [Manusmriti chapter 6, verse 45 ]

Section 309 of the indian penal code criminalises attempted suicide as well as suicide assistance. It states:

“Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year or with fine, or with both.”

Although section 309 is still in effect, the Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 (enacted July 2018) has restricted its application. The relevant provision of the new act states:

Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.

I remember an American novelist,. Tiffanie DeBartolo wrote in her book, How to Kill a Rock Star,

“Did you really want to die?”
“No one commits suicide because they want to die.”
“Then why do they do it?”
“Because they want to stop the pain.””

And I truly believe that this is literally the most honourable acknowledgement in regard with suicide.We would never want to kill ourself but we are brutally raped, then there are majority of us who don’t have courage to face ourselves and the ones surrounding us and ultimately we want to kill ourselves. We are poor, we don’t have money to feed our children, to give them a good education and thus we think it’s better we kill ourselves than to see our children dying in front of our eyes. We lost our sons and fathers and brothers and mothers in this turmoil, we are having our family members jailed for so many years, we are depressed, we are unemployed, we are having family disputes, we are experiencing so many ups and downs in our married lives, we kill ourselves. We are not our own murderers, we are just killing ourselves, most of the times for reasons, valid reasons. We are the people of Kashmir, who want to survive this turmoil but it doesn’t look like we’ll survive. We are the people of the Kashmir who will soon be joined by all the people of the world. Because like every other brutality is meant for Kashmir, suicide isn’t for Kashmir only.

~Sobia Khatoon is a student and is also working for an Indian based mental health organization Paperplanes.

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