Srinagar—In the last over twenty years, the number of suicide cases has surged in the Valley. Although experts believe there can be several reasons for suicide, the two-decade long conflict in Kashmir has swelled the numbers, more so in rural areas. Fifteen cases of attempt to suicide are registered every month at the SK Institute of Medical Sciences, which makes a total of 160-170 cases in the year 2009 alone. Falling in the age-group 19 to 28 years, most of the suicide victims turned out to be women. Official records show the SMHS Hospital received nearly 80 suicide cases in just 15 days the same year. In one such recent case, the sixteen-year-old son of a dentist was found hanging from a ceiling fan in his Rawalpora house. However, the family denied that the boy had taken the extreme step. Psychiatric consultant, Government Psychiatric Hospital, Srinagar, Dr Arshid Hussain, says when open aggression, anxiety or agitation is present in individuals suffering from depression, the risk of suicide increases drastically. “Other risk factors include previous suicide attempts, a family history of suicides or isolation. People who live alone or lack friends do not receive emotional support and often take to suicide,” he says. Maintaining that suicide is a multi-dimensional problem, he says “majority of the cases are due to depression. Psycho, social and environmental factors also play a role”. Dr Arshid says the present generation has lived through multiple trauma, insecurity and uncertainty. There is deregulation of the balance among various brain parts. Most of the victims consume fertilisers, chemicals or pesticides or simply jump into rivers. Prominent psychiatrist Dr Mushtaq Marghoob rules out any data collection to know the number or causes of suicides in Valley. “If anybody claims of having data, I personally believe it’s not correct. You have hospital data but again I don’t trust that,” he claims.
He says suicides are not being reported in the media. “Attempts at suicide are many but they hardly get reported in newspapers. You will hardly find a news about a 60-year-old committing suicide.” Although the World Health Organisation (WHO) statistics for 2005 show the rate of suicide in the Muslim world as 0.1 to 0.2 per 100,000, but in Kashmir - again predominantly a Muslim state - the rate is 15.20 per 100,000 a year. The low rate of suicides is attributed to strong religious beliefs in those societies. Margoob does not believe that rural areas are more prone to suicide. “In villages religion acts as buffer. People curse youngsters but they are more reactive to certain things. It has been seen that people having lower level of lipids are more prone to impulsive behaviour,” he says.