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Kashmir Battles Alarming Increase in Suicides

There has been an alarming rise in the number of suicides ever since a separatist campaign erupted in Jammu and Kashmir way back in 1989 . Unfortunately, most such incidents have gone unnoticed.

Although police records show that there were 736 cases of attempted suicide from 2001 until May this year in the Kashmir Valley, the picture may be quite different.

The records of just one major hospital in the summer capital Srinagar, the SMHS hospital, show that it admitted 1,124 patients who had attempted suicide in 2004 alone.

"During the last 18 years, more than 13,000 patients of suicide (where a person ended his/her life), para-suicide (where a person made a serious attempt to end his/her life) and deliberate self-harm were admitted in the SMHS hospital," said Arshad Hussain, a consultant psychiatrist at the government medical college.

Hussain blamed depression, schizophrenia and panic disorders for these cases.

"Depression is the fourth common mental disorder in the world at present. Trauma, unemployment, family breakups and cultural breakdowns are the main reasons for depression among the local youth," he pointed out.

Quoting data, he said the ratio of males and females in suicide cases was 3:1, in para suicide it was 1:4 and in deliberate self-harm it was 1:7, indicating that males outdid the females in committing suicides in the valley while more females made attempts to end their lives and deliberately harming themselves.

Interestingly, Hussain said there are just 12 specialist psychiatrists in the entire valley to cope with the problem.

Records of the valley's only psychiatric ailments hospital in Srinagar show that over 60,000 patients with psychiatric complaints visited the out patients' department in just 2006.

"It is a colossal problem. Patients with multiple psychiatric disorders have been coming to us for treatment an d there has been an exponential increase in such numbers since the last 18 years.

"Personality disorders, insomnia, agitation and schizophrenia are the common complaints, but our main worry is the spurt in suicidal tendencies among the young patients," said a doctor at the hospital.

"Ever since the present violence broke out here, the people have been living on the very edge of life. They have to negotiate at every nook and corner.

"Life has become so uncertain and dangerous that the easy way out for some is to walk out of it," said a sociologist.But Arshad maintains that blaming violence alone would be wrong.

"Family pressures, pressures of modern life, academic pressures, like they exist everywhere else, account for attempted suicides in Kashmir also. Yes, I don't disagree that violence has contributed to the increase in such cases here," the doctor said.

That violence and an uncertain future are among the main reasons for the increase in suicides in Kashmir is also proved by the fact that these cases have involved mostly the youth here.

"Middle age suicide attempts are few and far between. It is predominantly the youth that have made attempts to end their lives. It has been mostly the youth who have been the focus of both the security forces and militant groups," said another sociologist.

Asked why the actual number of suicides was far more than the numbers registered in the police records, a senior police officer said: "Because of the religious and social stigma attached with attempted suicides, it is quite possible that families avoid registering FIRs.

The majority of 736 cases recorded with us are those where the police took cognisance of attempted suicides on their own.

"Say for instance, the local police station comes to know about a patient being admitted in the hospital for stomach wash after consuming poison. We immediately take cognisance and register a FIR because attempting suicide is a crime," the officer said.


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