Sunday, May 18, 2014

North Indians (agressive fighters) vs. South

This is that time of the year when Std X and Std XII results are declared and the parents and students alike are on a knife-edge. We lose hundreds of young souls full of promise and beauty to what can be only termed as temporary insanity. This is especially a problem in the southern states (see SNEHA interview below).
Why do so many southern states have more suicides than northern states?
The second reason is cultural. If you look at the personalities, you will see that northerners are a little more aggressive because they had fought many wars with the Afghans, Mughals, the British, etc. while the southerners never had to face any wars. If you look at the expressions also, the northerners are more expressive of their emotions than southerners.

It used to be that Kerala used to top the suicide charts but now the greatest cause of alarm is Tamil Nadu (and specifically Chennai). There are individual heroes like Lakshmi Vijayakumar and Justice Karnan who are trying to help. But much more is needed to be done, so please help out if you can.

For all the people who are on the edge (or if you are one who knows of such a person), we urge you to listen to the voice of the many failures like Justice Karnan who have now tasted success.

And yes, heartiest congratulations to Ayush. We have never before come across a person with a 99% score, and we are impressed. Keep it up.
Little did Ayush Banerjee expect that Saturday would be a red-letter day in his life. The national Indian School Certificate Examinations (ISCE) topper, said he was completely surprised on hearing the news.

The Loyola School, Jamshedpur, student, who scored 99.25%, said that though he was expecting a good result, he never expected that he would rank first in the country. "Although I was expecting to get a good rank, topping the country is a big surprise for me," he said.

Son of Pradeep Kumar Banerjee, chief researcher at Tata Steel's R&D department, Ayush said: "Three hours of studying everyday was sufficient for me."

A day after Class 12 results were announced and two 'failed' students committed suicide, with eight others having reportedly attempted suicide, a sitting judge of the Madras high court has issued an appeal saying he himself failed in five examinations but became a judge because he never gave up.

Citing his own failures, not one or two examination but in five, Justice Karnan issued a public appeal on Saturday saying: "My appeal to all broken hearted and 'unsuccessful' students of Plus Two and SSLC students this year, and for all time to come, is not to resort to the extreme measure of taking one's god-given life. Please trust me and believe that I, once a humble student and of mediocre means, went through a difficult academic journey at a remote village in Tamil Nadu. I failed in VI standard, VIII standard, PUC, BSc., & BL examinations.

Lakshmi Vijayakumar of the suicide prevention NGO Sneha examines why India’s southern states register more suicides than the northern states, in a conversation with Shobha Warrier.
The latest report of the National Crime Records Bureau states that 135,445 people committed suicide in the country last year. Tamil Nadu tops the list with 16,927 suicides, followed by Maharashtra (16,112), West Bengal and Andhra Pradesh.

Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, consultant psychiatrist and founder of Sneha, an NGO that works in suicide prevention, analyses the situation, in a conversation with Shobha Warrier.

According to the NCRB report, Tamil Nadu tops the list of states that registered the maximum number of suicides...
The NCRB has been coming out with such crime reports for the last 20-30 years. For 20 years, Kerala used to be the state that registered the maximum number of suicides followed by Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Andhra Pradesh. 
If you take states and Union Territories together, Pondicherry is the Union Territory that has the largest number of suicides in the entire country.
The general pattern is that the southern states register more suicides than the northern states.

Is it because suicides are reported more in southern states?
Initially we also thought it was because of the better reporting system. But recently Vikram Patel and I published a paper called Data from the Million deaths in Lancet, which is a stratified sampling of a million homes in the country for various causes of death and not necessarily suicide. When we analysed the suicide part of it, we found that southern states had more suicides than northern states.
The national suicide rate is 11.2 per 100,000 but all the southern states have more than 16. The suicide rate in the central states is between 10 and 15. Northern states like Uttar Pradesh, Bihar and Rajasthan register less than five per 100,000.
This pattern has been persisting for the last 20-25 years. We know there is an under-reporting of suicides by 25 per cent but the pattern has been the same.

What could be the reason? Why do so many southern states have more suicides than northern states?
There are more suicides in southern states because of three reasons. One, southern states are more literate than the northern states. With education comes higher level of expectations and that gives rise to disappointments. In our national representative study, we tried to analyse the data and found that education is directly proportionate to suicide which is contrary to what we think. It may be because with education, expectations also rise.
The second reason is cultural. If you look at the personalities, you will see that northerners are a little more aggressive because they had fought many wars with the Afghans, Mughals, the British, etc. while the southerners never had to face any wars. If you look at the expressions also, the northerners are more expressive of their emotions than southerners.
So, people of south India have a tendency to internalise their feelings. When there is so much of anger and frustration inside, instead of directing it outside, you direct it inside.
These are the theoretical explanations of why suicides are high in southern states.

While Tamil Nadu and Kerala, the two states that are supposed to be more advanced in all sectors, top the list, Bihar has the lowest number of suicides.
That is the pattern we see all over. If you take the states of the United States also, the states with higher GDP register more suicides than the states with lower GDP. The reason is, the more you develop, the more the expectations and more the disappointments.
In the US, the educated white male has a higher risk of committing suicide than an unemployed black. When you blame yourself for your failures, the suicide rates go up.

The NCRB report says that in Tamil Nadu the number of suicides has gone up by six per cent last year. Kerala used to top the list till recently. How has the number come down there and gone up in Tamil Nadu?
Kerala used to have 28-29 suicides per 100,000 and used to top the list, but in the last four to five years, the rate has been coming down gradually. This is due to more awareness about taking treatment for depression. The government also has come out with a mental health plan. Also, rapid changes are not happening in the state these days.

Among the Indian cities, Chennai records the maximum number of suicides. Why is it so?
It has always been either Bengaluru or Chennai when you look at the metros. Kolkata has the lowest with four or five in 100,000, whereas in Chennai it is 24.9. Last year, it was almost 29. For six years, Bengaluru had the highest number and in 2008 or 2009, Chennai became number one. So, what we had witnessed in Bengaluru, we are now seeing in Chennai.
Like Bengaluru, Chennai is settling down now.
In the case of suicides due to exam failures, it has come down in Chennai compared to the rest of the state. That is because of the intervention and awareness of schools, parents and NGOs.

How alarming is the situation in Tamil Nadu?
It is alarming. I would say the government should take active steps in spreading awareness like the Kerala government did. Also, the health sector, the social sector, and the education sector should be involved in the plan.
I have given a policy recommendation to the Government of India and also done a report for the World Health Organisation on public health action to prevent suicides. We need to have an advocacy council which will coordinate with all the sectors.

The report says more men commit suicide than women. Why is it so?
Not only in India but it is a global pattern. Globally we find that more men commit suicide than women, but more women attempt suicide.
This is because men use more violent means to commit suicide. In the western world, it is 3:1, which means for every three men, one woman commits suicide. In India, it is 1.8:1. More women in India try to commit suicide because the most common method is the use of pesticides, which is more lethal than medicines like sleeping pills.
Is there any particular age at which people are more prone to suicide?
If you look at women, we see that the maximum number of suicides happen between the ages of 15 and 29. Till 29, the number is almost the same for both men and women. After 30, three times more men commit suicide than women. That could be due to a lot of sociological reasons. Till 30, Indian women are not empowered fully and children act as a huge protective factor.

The report also says more divorced women commit suicide than married ones.
Globally, divorced and widowed women have a higher rate because of loneliness. Chances are less for a divorced woman with a child.

You run Sneha to help people overcome suicidal tendencies. Has the number of calls to Sneha increased?
Yes, the number of calls has increased. We have 30-35 people calling us everyday saying they are depressed and suicidal. People also email and even Skype from all over the world -- like from Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, the US.
I can say we are able to help 80 to 90 per cent of the time.



1 comment:

  1. God, not this again. Yes I know the psychologist is South Indian but she is not a historian.

    The reason for more suicides is culturally South Indians are more comfortable with suicide in pretty much anything but especially war. The various hero stones(virakal, nattukal) commemorate warriors who led suicide squads against enemies(present in Pallava, Chola and Chera armies) as well as those who have fulfilled/broken a vow.
    Not dissimilar to the Samurai culture.
    Note the high number of suicides when YSR and MGR died compared to the deaths of say Indira or Rajiv...which brings us to
    It is no coincidence that the Tamil Tigers excelled at suicide bombings. It came naturally to them as it was part and parcel of Tamil militarism

    And good lord, has this woman even met a Tamil? As a Telugu guy I say their pushiness ,aggression and yearning to dominate made them the most hated community not just in South India but Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Singapore. Not to mention Toronto and London.

    Wherever they go they form either monopolies,militias or mafias as the situation merits.