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Deaths by Suicide in India-An Emerging Societal Issue

  • Category
  • Published
    16th Sep, 2022


According to the NCRB report for 2021, an increase of 7.2% from the previous year has been reported in the number of people who died by suicide. Given the large number of persons taking their own lives, suicide has emerged as a critical public health concern in India with social dimensions.


Highlights of the report:

  • Around 64 lakh persons in India died by suicide, an increase of 7.2% from the year 2021.

Reasons for Suicide:

  • 33.2%: Family Problems (other than marriage-related problems)
  • 4.8%: Marriage-Related Problem
  • 18.6%: Illness
  • Daily wage earners accounted for 42,004 (25.6 per cent) of the total victims. One in four of the recorded 1, 64,033 suicide victims during 2021 was a daily wage earner.
  • They were followed by self-employed people, unemployed people, and those involved in the farming sector were the top categories of people who died by suicide in 2021.
  • Maharashtra topped the country in terms of the number of suicides reported in 2021 followed by Tamil Nadu and Madhya Pradesh.
  • The report certainly points out suicides as a critical public health issue in India and qualifies for a closer epidemiological assessment.

Report by WHO:

A 2019 report by the WHO said suicide is one of the top four causes of death worldwide, after road injury, tuberculosis, and interpersonal injury.

How is Suicide a Social Problem?

  • The problem with only viewing suicide as an individual problem is that we neglect the importance of social forces contributing to suicide.
  • Suicide is a serious social problem whose incidence varies between genders, age groups, geographical distribution, and with the influence of the socio-political structure of society.
  • The risk of suicide in a population increases when the social context fails to provide a healthy sense of purpose and belonging, contributing to an individual’s sense of contribution and connection.
  • Furthermore, suicide should be viewed as a multidimensional public and mental health issue, having complex interactions with the economic, social, cultural, psychological, and biological realms of individual and collective existence.

What are the challenges?

  • Under-reporting of such cases due to fear of social stigma and sometimes to rescue from judicial procedures.
  • Fear of legal action:  Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC) makes suicide a punishable offense. The fear of punitive action and added hassle of having to deal with police and courts often results in a refusal to seek help.

There has been an attempt at the decriminalization of suicide through the Mental Healthcare Act (2017) 

  • Social stigma: The social stigma associated with suicide results in the NCRB grossly under-reporting the true numbers of suicide. 

Related Initiatives:

  • Mental Healthcare Act, 2017: It aims to provide mental healthcare services for persons with mental illness.
  • KIRAN: The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched a 24/7 toll-free helpline to provide support to people facing anxiety, stress, depression, suicidal thoughts, and other mental health concerns.
  • Manodarpan Initiative: It is an initiative of the Ministry of Education under Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. It is aimed to provide psychosocial support to students, family members, and teachers for their mental health and well-being during the times of Covid-19.

Madhya Pradesh is going to be the first State in the country to draft a suicide prevention strategy and the government has formed a task force for it.


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