Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Sikkim tops in India with highest suicide rate

Sikkim has dislodged the usual top ranker Kerala as the State with the highest suicide rate in the country, according to Lakshmi Vijayakumar, regional representative of the World Health Organisation on suicide prevention and founder of SNEHA, a non-governmental organisation.

Addressing a Continuing Medical Education programme organised by the Department of Psychiatry, Chettinad Hospital and Research Institute (CHRI), Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar said Sikkim, with a suicide rate of 48.2 per lakh of population, and Puducherry, with a rate of 46.9 per lakh, presented a new and worrying trend of an escalation of suicides in smaller States.

She said that Kerala dropped to the fourth position with a suicide rate of 25 per lakh, while the Andaman and Nicobar Islands ranked third with a rate of 34.5 per lakh.

Bangalore led the list among cities, with a rate of 42.1 per lakh, followed by Rajkot (31.5), Jabalpur (24.4) and Vijayawada (23.2).
Chennai (20.4) and Tamil Nadu (21.7) were ranked sixth among cities and States respectively.

“The data trends more or less perpetuate the status of southern States having relatively higher suicide rates than the northern States,” she said.

India has a suicide rate of 10.8 on a par with developed countries. If one mapped suicide trends from an economics standpoint, suicide rates seemed to be higher in transition economies, she said. Statistical analysis showed that while men were more prone to committing suicide than women, Asian women had the highest suicide rate irrespective of the development status of their country.

Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar felt that the Western proposition of a mental disorder as an underlying factor in a majority of suicide victims might not apply to India. Apart from depression and alcohol, almost 50 per cent of suicide victims in the country had no history of mental disturbance.
Noting that suicide ideation was a dynamic than a static state of mind, she stressed the importance of periodic assessment. The handful of interventions among the innumerable prevention strategies tried out had succeeded because of the ambivalence — the clash of will to live and will to end it all — of the affected individual, she pointed out.
Some of the effective measures included reducing access to methods and means of suicide, crisis support and helplines, drugs such as Lithium and Clozapine and enlightened media reporting on suicides, she said.
While the media can often be a double-edged sword in terms of suicide ideation, the media in Tamil Nadu had to be credited with being instrumental in the government's pioneering decision to allow students who fail Class X or XII examinations to re-appear without having to lose a year — a measure that led to a decline in examination failure-triggered suicides.
Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar said a national suicide prevention strategy was imperative for India, where an estimated 5 million attempted suicides are carried out every year.

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