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Suicides among young females epidemic in Kashmir

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
March 5th, 2012
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

Suicide rates in Kashmir were negligible before the insurgency of 1989. Since then, there has been a very noticeable uptick in suicides in the past 21 years. Researchers at Kashmir's sole Psychiatric Disease Hospital say there has been an increase from 0.5 deaths per 100,000 people in 1989 to 20 deaths per 100,000 in 2007.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Over 10 suicide attempts were reported last month in the Valley alone, giving a snapshot of the roughly 17,000 suicides that have been reported in the past 21 years, experts say.

In studies conducted by B.A. Dabla, a sociologist at the University of Kashmir, it was revealed that there has been an average of 227 suicides been reported in 27 months in Kashmir, based on medical reports.

The study showed that 62 percent of all suicide cases involve females. Youth in the age group of 17-26 are found most likely to take their own lives, although teenagers as young as 13 years old have also committed suicide over the last two decades.

The National Crime Bureau Records of India states that Kashmir has a higher suicide rate than the Indian states of Uttar Pradesh and Bihar, since one person in the Valley commits suicide every day.

Experts believe these numbers are conservative estimates, as media reports and police and hospital records do not present the real scenario of just how rampant suicide has become in Kashmir.

"The actual rate is higher than what is being reported. Because of the social stigma (and shame attached to the act), people do not report suicide attempts or death," psychiatrist Mushtaq Margoob says.

Suicide cases go largely unreported in rural areas here.

"It is an unfortunate fact that the suicide rate is higher than what we know and (steadily) mounting," Margoob said.

With the increase have come even more "efficient" ways of committing suicide. People in Kashmir would previously threaten their families with suicide, without actually doing themselves any harm. They would jump out of first floor windows or slash their hands, which while harmful, still left them alive.

"But now, the most deadly substances are being used for suicides."

In urban areas, hanging, jumping into rivers and consuming poison are some of the most common methods. In villages pesticides are often used. Women commonly set themselves ablaze during suicide attempts.

There are several reasons for this surging rate. In addition to the insurgency, the level of life-or-death desperation in the Valley has been linked to the drastic rise of psychiatric disorders, which currently affects roughly 800,000 people across Kashmir.

"Impulse control disorders, psychiatric disorders, materialist lifestyles, psycho-social and socio- economic problems are some of the major causes for the increase," Mushtaq says.

Depression, panic disorder and anxiety are all linked to suicides as well.

Independent psychologist A.G. Madhosh categorizes the causes of suicides in Kashmir into social, psychological and anticipatory. "Social" causes are mostly linked to family pressure, marital status, career, strained relationships and the inability to compete at social levels.

"In urban areas, employment and education are compounding factors," Madhosh says.

Amongst teenagers, poor impulse control, examination stress, love affairs and parental pressures are found to be prominent reasons for suicides. Experts suggest adoption of a practical system of education, counseling and religious education as a mean of prevention.

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