Deaths due to suicide in Tamil Nadu have doubled in the last two decades, says a report accumulated till 2014 by Sneha, a non-governmental organization that works towards minimizing such deaths.
Talking to the media at the Hyatt Regency in Chennai, Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, director of Sneha said, “Tamil Nadu has 24.3 percent suicide rates. Chennai and Pondicherry are two of the places, which have high suicide rates. Pondicherry has about 40.3 percent suicides which is highest among the other states and union territories. Chennai has 24.4 percent suicide rates which is highest among the metro cities in the country.”
An analysis of the suicide statistics from 1980 to 2014 reveals a major increase in suicides for the period 2004-2009 in Chennai as compared to Tamil Nadu. “The increase in suicides in Chennai might be because of the Chennai boom between those years. The other reasons could be under-reporting or under-estimation,” said Dr. Lakshmi.
Dr. Lakshmi said that the suicide rates are higher among men who are above the age of 30, while among women, they are higher below the age of 30. Asked about the reason behind this, she said, “After 30 years, women have children and thinking about them and their families, they do not commit suicide. However, men have more financial pressures after the age of 30 which becomes the reason for suicide.”
Talking about self-immolation in the state, she termed it as ‘copycat suicide’ in which people imitate others and use the same method to commit suicide. “It happens when one act of suicide is sensationalized or the person is shown as a ‘hero’ in front of others." She cited the example of Kotturpuram bridge, where about 26 suicides were committed by people jumping from the bridge. With the efforts of Sneha and Chennai Corporation, barricades were put after which no suicides have been reported from there.
Asked about the deaths caused due to caste issues, she explained saying that any person who is victimised or feels that injustice has been done to them, they will definitely have suicidal tendencies.
Compared to other states, farmer suicides have been lower in Tamil Nadu. “Most of the farmers in the state go for subsistence farming and the farmers have smaller land areas as compared to farmers in states like Andhra Pradesh, Maharashtra and Chattisgarh which have the highest farmer suicide deaths,” she said.
She added that many of the suicides in rural areas occur by using pesticides. Moreover, India has the highest number of suicides of upto 2,54,000 till 2014.
Sneha has been working to help people with suicidal tendencies for the past 30 years. It has 24x7 helpline numbers for people who want to talk about their problems. More than 40 percent of the callers are those who want to commit suicide. It has also been working towards decriminalization of attempt to suicide.