Suicide and suicidal behaviour among youth and young adults is a major public health crisis. Suicide is one of the leading causes of death among young people and suddenly there is a surge in this number. Youth suicide prevention is thus an urgent call of the hour.
THE TRUE PICTURE :
Among all those who die by suicide, students form an alarming percentage. For every death by suicide in India, there are more than 200 people with suicidal thoughts and behaviour and more than 15 suicide attempts. The drastic increase in suicides since 2020, particularly those of the youth, indicate the adverse impact of Pandemic Covid-19 on mental health. Joblessness, inability to access opportunities, social isolation among other factors have led to an increase in stress and anxiety. The situation is further worsened by the stigma associated with the lack of information about whom to contact for help.
Among the youth of the country, who fall within an age group of 15-29 years, all the suicides take place. Data suggests that one student dies by suicide every 55minutes. Increased pressure and anxiety about performing well in examination and fear of failure are the prime factors contributing to an increased number of suicides.
YOUTH SUICIDE : THE PROBABLE CAUSES
Youth suicide is a significant public health problem not only in India, but across the world. In India, The National Youth Policy categorises the 15-29years age group as the youth. The studies reveal that the pattern of youth suicide in low and middle income countries (LMIC) including India, is somewhat different from that in high income countries. Researches have also shown that the rate of youth suicide among females is higher than that in male. The ratio comes to something like Male : Female = 1: 2.35. The magnitude of youth suicide in India is quite substantial with its distinct bio-psycho-social determinants. Some of the distinct factors contributing to higher youth suicide rate are family problems, lack of social support, having a history of physical or sexual assault, bullying, failure in examination, availability of lethal means, complications in love affairs, indulge in substance abuse, Gender identity and sexual orientation, etc. These apart, socio-political upheavals, including never-before situations like Covid-19 Pandemic, influences the prevalence and trend of youth suicide.
SUICIDE PREVENTION STRATEGIES :
There can be three types of suicides prevention strategies – Universal, Selective and Indicated prevention. Universal prevention strategies are directed towards the entire youth population, Selective prevention strategies target the vulnerable groups (like people who have suffered trauma or abuse), while the Indicated prevention is an individually focused intervention to protect a young person at heightened risk of suicides (like someone with history of suicude).
Universal prevention strategies are most widely adopted and may aim at spreading awareness about the risk factors of suicides, identification of suicidal behaviour among youths, mental health promotion, reducing harm caused by alcohol, limiting access to lethal means of suicides and increasing access to mental health care.
Though not a very comfortable one to discuss, yet suicides prevention is an important topic because prevention methods need improvement. Moreover, basic problem solving skills, resilience, deep cultural and religious beliefs, connection to friends and family and availability of of physical and mental health care can go a long way to reduce suicides.