Asian countries account for more than 60% of world suicides.
According to the WHO, in the year 2016, suicide was the most common cause of death in the 15-39 age bracket in India, the highest in the South-East Asian region. India’s own official statistics, which map the number and causes of suicides in the country, have not been made public for the last three years, hindering suicide prevention strategies and efforts to implement the WHO’s recommendations in this regard.
In 2014, the WHO released a report with a series of recommendations for successful suicide prevention. It proposed a public health model for suicide prevention, consisting of four steps:
- Identification of risks and protective factors
- Development & evaluation of interventions
India has not progressed beyond the first step. Lack of political will, social stigma and inadequate mental health awareness in the general and medical communities contribute to the continuous rise in the death rate of young people by suicide in India.
A Junior Doctors World Congress was held at my alma mater, Christian Medical College Ludhiana in April 2019. Si and I ran a Mental Health Workshop that was attended by 75 medical students from India and the wider South and South East Asia region.
Motivated by this event, some students have established community mental health support networks and mentorship programmes at their respective institutions. I am impressed with their passion to make a difference.
Here is an example:
Early March I was back in Delhi and was honoured to be invited by Shruti Verma Singh, the founder of a Youtube channel, Zen-Brain.com. She is determined to increase the emotional awareness in India and does it gently, through a series of interviews. We met one afternoon to talk about Saagar. I hope her work will help wake up the government, break social stigma and drive understanding and compassion.