Kerala has witnessed a reduction in the number of suicides among children and adolescents in the state between 2017 and 2020. Going by the number of total suicides, the percentage of the suicides compared with the total number of suicides, and thereby evaluating the monthly average suicides over the last three years, data shows a reduction in suicide rate in the state.
The statistics of child and adolescent suicides, exclusively accessed by this reporter, from the State Crime Records Bureau (SCRB) for the period between 2017 and August 2020 shows that the total number of children (child and adolescent) suicides, which was 229 in 2017 reduced to 203 in 2018. The number of suicides in 2019 was recorded at 215. The total number of the suicides of children in the state from January 2020 to August 31, 2020 was 178.
Evaluating the total suicide rate of those belonging to all the age groups, there is a noticeable reduction. In 2017, when the total number of suicides in the state was recorded at 7,870, the number of childrenâs suicide was 229, contributing to 2.9 percent of the total rate of suicides; whereas, the monthly average was 19.08 percent. In 2018, the total number of suicides in Kerala was 8,237, in which the children's suicide was 2.5 percent (203) of the total. The monthly average that year was reduced to 16.9 percent. In 2019, the total numbers of suicides in the state was 8,556, when 215 children ended their lives, contributing to 2.5 percent of the total share, whereas the monthly average was 17.9 percent.
The total number of children's suicides from January 2020 to August 31, 2020 is 178 and the monthly average was reduced to 14.8 percent.
The latest suicide rates also show a steady reduction from the SCRB statistics from 2014 to 2016. According to the SCRB statistics in 2014, 330 children committed suicide in Kerala, 297 in 2015 and 242 in 2016. The trend shows a steady reduction from the years 2014-2019.
The national average of childrenâs suicide for the year 2019 is 6.9 percent, which is very high compared to the stateâs average. In 2019, according to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), a total of 1,39,123 suicides were recorded among the total population of the country. Among that, the childrenâs suicide is at an appalling 9,613, accounting for the 6.9 percent of the total population.
Experts attribute various reasons for the reduction in the number of child suicides in the state.
âThe bio psycho-social stress levels are low among the children compared to that of the elders. They also have less means of (taking their life) though they have ideas in them. The introduction of the grading system in the examinations, instead of the ranking system has taken away the stress from the students which may have reduced the suicide numbers. The other reason is the awareness created by the state level agencies,â points out Dr PN Suresh Kumar, Professor of Psychiatry at the KMCT Medical College, Kozhikode. Dr Suresh says that of late, there are other academic avenues for children to opt for, other than engineering or medicine, and that parents are lenient to allow the children to pursue it. This also may have lessened the stress levels among the children.
More girls between 12-18 end lives than boys
Another noticeable feature of the statistics from 2017 to 2020 is that girls up to the age of 12 to 18 who took their own life were more in number than boys. In 2017, 123 girls killed themselves, compared to 96 boys in the same period. In 2018, 109 girls of the age group 12 to 18 killed themselves compared to 86 girls, whereas in 2019, 118 girls and 88 boys took their own life. In 2020, up to August 31, 96 girls took their own life while 73 of the boys of the 12 to 18 age group ended their lives. A total of 36 children below the age of 12 ended their lives from 2017 to 2020.
In 2017, 10 children below 12 years of age died by suicide, whereas in 2018, eight children below 12 ended their lives. In 2019, nine children below 12 ended their lives, whereas in 2020, up to August 31, nine children below 12 killed themselves.
Experts say that the figures are pointing towards a reduction in the number of suicides. âGoing by the number of children who (killed themselves), there is a reduction. Many of the childrenâs suicide may be due to imitative tendencies. There may not be a genuine intention to end their lives as they lack the emotional maturity to do the acts. It is only through psychological autopsy it could be understood whether the child does the act with genuine intentionâ, Dr V Satheesh, former Professor of Psychiatry and current Principal of Government Medical College, Ernakulam, says.
TV Anupama, Director, Women and Child Development, says that the government appointed committee, led by DGP R Sreelekha, to study child suicides will submit their report shortly. The State Mental Health programme has begun a suicide prevention campaign âJeevarakshaâ in which doctors and health personals will be given training to detect early warning signs and psychological first aids, said Dr Kiran PS, State Nodal Officer of the State Mental Health Programme.
Clinical psychologists say that they can feel the rising queries regarding suicidal tendencies among children from their parents.
âThrough clinical experience, we feel that there are less successful suicide attempts leading to death, but the number of suicide attempts and threats to take oneâs life are high. The reasons are due to impulsive behaviour and children with personality disorders are more prone to this. Due to increasing awareness, the parents are becoming hyper-vigilant and are coming to the clinic whenever the children shows or expresses any signs of suicidal tendencies,â Dr Soumya P Sukumaran, clinical psychologist at the Government Mental Health Centre, Kuthiravattam, Kozhikode says. She says that the patterns of methods are complex.
The children are being influenced by the references about suicides in the media. She says that the girl children are prone to complicated behaviours in attempting suicides. Dr Sowmya says that a positive aspect is that those who have similar tendencies are calling the helpline numbers and online consultations.
At the school level, there are initiatives such as âsouhridaâ and at the community level, there are currently more outlets for seeking help to prevent suicides. Dr Soumya says that in general, there is less academic or exam-related stress among children who come for counselling. Moreover, there is no stigma in undertaking counselling at the mental hospitals.
If you are aware of anyone facing mental health issues or feeling suicidal, please provide help. Here are some helpline numbers of suicide-prevention organisations that can offer emotional suppport to individuals and families.
State health department's suicide helpline: 104
Sneha Suicide Prevention Centre - 044-24640050 (listed as the sole suicide prevention helpline in Tamil Nadu)
Life Suicide Prevention: 78930 78930
Roshni: 9166202000, 9127848584
Sahai (24-hour): 080 65000111, 080 65000222
Maithri: 0484 2540530
Chaithram: 0484 2361161
Both are 24-hour helpline numbers.
State government's suicide prevention (tollfree): 104
Roshni: 040 66202000, 6620200
SEVA: 09441778290, 040 27504682 (between 9 amd and 7 pm)
Aasara offers support to inidviduals and families during an emotional crisis, for those dealing with mental health issues and suicidal ideation, and to those undergoing trauma after the suicide of a loved one.
24x7 Helpline: 9820466726
Click here for working helplines across India.