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Life is meant to be lived fully

A little pep-talk can prevent someone from attempting suicide

Photo: K.R. Deepak

Down in the dumps? Talk to someone

We lost to Puducherry in the State-wise count, but with 37.8 Chennaiites per lakh deciding to end their lives annually — against a national average of 10.5/lakh — we came out tops among cities. We can’t put that on a promo pamphlet.

What we can do is highlight it on September 10, International Suicide Prevention Day (ISPD).

“I was part of the initiative to make ISPD happen,” says Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, Psychiatrist and founder of SNEHA, suicide prevention centre.

Sharing experiences

“One million people die at their own hands every year, which is more than all war and terrorism-related deaths put together. We worked for three years. Now the Day has snowballed into a big movement, giving a platform for people, “survivors”, to share experiences.”

Activities are organised around a theme.

“The theme this year is ‘Think Globally, Plan Nationally, Act Locally’,” she says.

Why is Chennai the tryst-with-death capital? “Southern States, in general, post a higher rate of suicides,” Dr. Lakshmi says. “A better reporting system, perhaps. Better literacy rates push expectations higher. The major reason here is rapidity of change, usually associated with suicides.”

The tendency is high in the IT sector. Sudden access to a disposable income, blurring of day-night/work-life, migration from the interiors to the city, job pressure and social drinking as accepted norm are all on the “causes” list.

Changing family dynamics that place freedom over obedience, fragile interpersonal relationships and the inability to cope with failure explain why 23 per cent of suicides trace themselves to family cross-currents.

“You turn to the family in times of need. What do you do when you’re out of sync with it?” she asks. A disturbing trend is the hike in suicide rates among the under-14.

How do they even know the methods? Her theory: Better nutrition and healthcare ensure physical growth, but this is not matched by emotional maturity. Media reports and programmes promote suicide as a solution, pre-teens imitate them”

There’s cheering news. SNEHA’s school programmes, helplines, media publicity and government’s quick re-exam-plan have brought exam-related suicides down.

“Kids are caught in the crossfire of home and social issues. We have to learn to talk to them.”

Suicide is a paradox, she points out. It’s an individual’s decision, but one that changes with help.

People don’t want to die; they just don’t want to live the life they have. She hopes the “suicidal” law IPC 309 will be repealed.

Her ISPD message: Suicide prevention is everyone’s responsibility, everyone can do it. SNEHA’s 24-hour helpline: 2464 0050/0060

prime causes

Changing family dynamics

Lack of emotional maturity in teens

High expectations

Fragile interpersonal relationships

GEETA PADMANABHAN

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