Back to back lockdowns triggers a wave of suicides in Kashmir

Back to back lockdowns triggers a wave of suicides in Kashmir

Two ventilators of SMHS Hospitals were sustaining two young men at the Medical Intensive Care Unit (MICU) in the week that just ended. Both between 30 and 40 years of age had attempted to end their lives.

While one among the duo just got shifted to a ward where his grief ravaged family awaited him. The other was not so lucky and his family’s grief multiplied on Saturday when they were told to take his body.

Suicides have increased dramatically in the past one month in Kashmir, coinciding with the lockdown period in the UT and social media reportage of such cases.

Data from a single tertiary care hospital here shows that poisoning cases have increased from 68 in April 2021 to 128 in May and first week of June. While doctors unanimously called for efforts to curb this surge, opinions are divided on the cause of the increase in such cases.

Just near the MICU is the Community Health Center of SMHS Hospital where at least 20-30 people with “suicidal thoughts” report daily during times when the Pandemic has not taken over the building.

Currently, they trot uphill to Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences in downtown Srinagar. These people, in due course of time overcome their stray, self harming thoughts and return to normal lives. “We never see media reporting about people who changed their mind about taking their life despite having such thoughts. We only talk of those who ended life,” says Dr Arshid Hussain, Professor of Psychiatry at GMC Srinagar. He said the loose and frequent reporting of suicides created a “contagion”. “It just leads to a chain of suicides,” he said.

In the past one month, Dr Hussain believes, youth in Kashmir have consumed “too much content” on suicides. “They are wrongly being told by the media that suicides are ‘OK’ and common. They are being misled because most people do not resort to suicides,” he said.

He said it was important to talk of those who successfully overcame their self-harm thoughts and later overcame the problems in their lives. “We never talk of the stigma that families of the victims carry for their entire lives,” he said.

Dr Irfan Ahmed Bhat, Cardiologist at Super Specialty Hospital here feels the surge in suicides was majorly due to the pandemic. “We had a lockdown and people who had already borne the brunt financially in the past couple of years, were looking at more financial insecurity,” he said.

He said many young people who he had seen admitted at the hospital, after being brought with an attempted suicide, spoke about how it was difficult for them to sustain themselves and their families. “They feel insecure, inadequate and the pandemic has only worsened it for them,” he said.

Dr Bhat said he had also observed that many young people had lost a close family member to COVID19. This cardiologist, while commenting on the figures regarding the rise in cases of poisoning at SMHS Hospital said the data was incomplete. “Most cases are not even coming to hospitals as they never make it. Plus, there are other methods that people resort to,” he said.

Dr Bhat urged that the government should formulate a plan for better understanding of the issues that lead to such extreme steps and address these. “We cannot shut our eyes to this,” he said.

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