Why suicide rate is highest among young Indians ?

An alarming report on increasing suicides in India is calling for urgent intervention and rethinking of our system. What’s wrong with Indians? Our country had shown the world the path to eternal happiness. And, now, Indians are an unhappy lot!…If you probe further deeper into reasons, you will see many cultural, genetic and religious factors…

Young people in India are committing suicide at a much higher rate than in the West, says The Lancet report, entitled Suicide Mortality in India released on June 23, June 2012.

The first ever national survey of deaths in India found that some 56 percent of all women who took their own lives in 2010 and 40 percent of men were aged between 15 and 29.

The suicide rates are highest in the 15-29 age groups, peaking in southern states that are considered richer and more developed with better education, social welfare and health care.

Opportunities that have come with two decades of economic boom and open markets have also brought more job anxiety, higher expectations and more pressure to achieve, mental health experts said.

This is calling for urgent intervention and rethinking of our institution called India or Bharat. Added to it, many suicide cases still go unreported as people hide what is still an illegal act in India.

The higher rates may come from “the greater likelihood of disappointments when aspirations that define success and happiness are distorted or unmet by the reality faced by young people in a rapidly changing society,” said Dr. Vikram Patel, one of the report’s authors. He also noted online social networking was making “loneliness more common.” He admits his conclusion is conjecture, but says “I cannot think of any more plausible explanation.”

Mind is my area of research. But I have not officially learned psychology. So I have talked to few psychologists on their view. I talked to social scientists too…They say:

* The stress levels go up.

* There some kind of disintegration of family system patch and you miss out on those kinds of support systems

* The rapid changes on society that have come with globalization, the breakdown of the families

* The young face very high competition and pressure from families to succeed. Many parents think their child should come first in the class

* When youths start to despair, they often don’t think to seek help, or shun the idea because they think psychiatry and psychology is only for crazy people.

These are all reasons that need to be taken seriously.

But these answers didn’t satisfy me. Those are all generalized mind-level reasons. But there should be something that goes beyond mind.

In layman’s terms, immediate reason for suicide is that the person who attempts suicide is not happy. Unhappiness derives from stress. And stress comes from conflict. Any conflicts in mind can lead to stress.

What’s the major reason for the conflict? We have to address that. Then, it will be easy to address the suicide issue.
It’s no secret that happiness means different things to different people. And it also means different things to different people in different countries.

So the reasons could be deeper in a country’s psyche. If we go further deeper there must be many cultural, genetic and religious factors that need to be addressed.

I wanted to talk to a psychologist who knows about Indian culture and tradition and how does the mind work in DNA of this country. A psychologist, who just doesn’t go by what he/she learned in psychology class, predominantly written by western psychologists based on the cultural upbringing and conditioning of westerners…This is east. Socio-geographical-political-ethnic-genetic factors could be different.

Then I had a detailed talk with Sahana Madhyastha (who also writes in SpeakingTree) Clinical Psychologist and Asst Professor of a reputed university in India. She has a website on Indian mind too – sahanabhavathu.com

She has raised an important issue. “…the real cause would be today’s generation’s wrong understanding of happiness…”

“The real reason is that we Indians forget what happiness is. The greatest contribution of India to the world is the concept of happiness. We have just forgotten it…And we are thinking that “comforts”, “pleasure” and “enjoyment” give happiness…”

“Even in today’s circumstances, Indian happiness is related to emotions like peace and harmony. For westerners, it is joy and enthusiasm. Relationships, a major contributor to well-being for Indians, are defined through family. In the west, it’s characterized by work, relationships, and friends….”

According to Sahana, in India, unlike in the west, well-being was not defined only by individual wellness, but by the growth of other people’s lives, mainly their families. This is due to the collective, rather than individualistic, nature of Indian society.

The Eastern mind is more inner-directed and concerned with perfection of self (esoteric). The Western mind, in contrast, takes the exoteric approach; looking at the world and finding one’s place within it, rather than seeking enlightenment as an internal process.

She was right. In the West, a human being has an individualistic nature and is an independent part of the universe and the society. Individualism is stronger. Even gods are personal.

Now think of our ancestry.

In our psyche (our DNA or genetic code) a human being is an integral part of the universe and the society. People are fundamentally connected. Duty towards all others is a very important matter. Collectivism is stronger.

West believes in linear development, hence improvement has a goal. Development stops when the goal is reached.
We Indians believe in cyclic development, hence improvement is a never ending journey that has no limits…

West is more focused on individual events and the role of the person. We, Indians, were having systemic approach – all events in the universe are interconnected.

Hence, the conflict is created when we go against out genetic-developed mind and start following newly conditioned mind which is filled with concepts that has been pumped on us by western marketing lobbies in terms of ideas, products and services.

This is the basic issue. The conflict between the real self (Indian DNA) and unreal self (Trying to imitate Western DNA).

So who is the real culprit here?

1. Parenting: Wrong parenting. Parents are confused. How many of you know about our tradition and culture (Forget the history texts in schools and colleges – everybody knows that our history is gross manipulation). If I am not imbibing my tradition and culture, that is in tune with the DNA structure in my child, I am at fault. I cannot stop the genetic code at one go. The difference between the real I and manifested I should be taught to our children from day one. We blindly follow the superficial life thrushed on to us by the marketeers.

2. Media: Media is run by advertisements and sponsoring. All journalists, including me, need to eat. So, it is just another job like teaching, accounting, politics or priesthood…Media cannot and will not present entire truth. Media is run by businessmen who in turn want return in terms of money or power. So media will go to any extend to make it. It misleads younger generation. They take everything for granted. Talking about our tradition is old-fashioned and non-profitable for the media. But promoting Western and foreign culture has become money spinning for the media. (For instance, if you promote Valentine Day, you will get advertisement. The story of Satyavan-Savitri doesnot have any market value)

3. Greed: In ancient India, poverty was considered a virtue. We respected wsidom, knowledge and great saints who lived by begging. Kings used to bow their head in front of a poor Guru. This has changed. The sole purpose of life has become making money, thanks to our media. For what? “Enjoyment”. Now, poverty is just seen as an opportunity. It’s beneficial only for foreign-funded NGOs and political industrialists that millions of Indians are poor. It makes them rich. Most of them are veteran starvation marketers.

4. Changing society – Society doesn’t take any responsibility anymore. We don’t have civic sense. We need freaky life.”Enjoy” has become our only mantra. The mood of society has gone from collective conscience to individual selfishness.

5. No moral foundation in schools: We don’t teach morality and civic sense in the schools. Our kids dont have moral courage to fight for truth. Schools seldom teach national pride, patriotism and our traditional culture. The government schools rarely teach our Epics, our stories like Panchatantra or our philosophies. We have forgotten the mother of all langauges, Sanskrit. I do not know if there is any Sanskrit-medium school in India. But we have more number of English-medium schools than that in the USA and UK together. We forget our own mother. Then, how can we be right?

All these and many more reasons lead to chaos, because all these developments would create only violence and conflict. Hence unhappiness…that leads to suicide.

When I have discussed about this matter with another friend of mine in Mumbai, he asked:

“What do your Hindu scriptures say about suicide? Does it ban suicide?”

“Hinduism is not a prescriptive religion with list of Do’s and Don’ts. It gives freedom to individual to decide. Generally, committing suicide is considered a violation of the code of ahimsa (non-violence) and therefore equally adharmica as murdering another human. Suicide also puts an individual’s spiritual clock in reverse. Hindu scriptures therefore aptly describe it as murder of self (atmahatya)…It also known as pranatyaga, “abandoning life force.” Intentionally ending one’s own life through poisoning, drowning, burning, jumping, shooting, etc. Suicide has traditionally been condemned in Hindu scripture because, being an abrupt escape from life, it creates unseemly karma to face in the future.”

“So Hinduism doesn’t approve Suicide?” he asked.

“It’s not like that. Sanatan Dharma accepts a man’s right to end one’s life through the non-violent practice of fasting to death, termed Prayopavesa. But Prayopavesa is strictly restricted to people who have no desire or ambition left, and no responsibilities remaining in this life…But what happens today? We do not want to become tolerant and accept our bad karma but want to escape the problem. In this way suicide is not a solution it on the contrary increases the problem…”

“Can you explain more on Prayopavesa?” he asked.

“In the event of terminal disease or great disability, religious self-willed death through fasting – prayopavesa – is permitted. The person making such a decision declares it publicly, which allows for community regulation and distinguishes the act from suicide performed privately in traumatic emotional states of anguish and despair…”

Our ancestors clearly developed various stipulations:

1) Inability to perform normal bodily purification;

2) Death appears imminent or the condition is so bad that life’s pleasures are nil;

3) The action must be done under community regulation.

The gradual nature of prayopavesa is a key factor distinguishing it from sudden suicide, svadehaghata, for it allows time for the individual to settle all differences with others, to ponder life and draw close to God, as well us for loved ones to oversee the person’s gradual exit from the physical world. In the ideal, highly ritualized practice, one begins by obtaining forgiveness and giving forgiveness.

Next, a formal vow. Mahavrata-marana, “great vow of death,” is given to one’s guru, following a full discussion of all karmas of this life, especially fully and openly confessing one’s wrongdoings.

This follows meditation on the innermost, immortal self becomes the full focus as one gradually abstains from food. At the very end, as the soul releases itself from the body, the sacred mantra is repeated as instructed by the preceptor.

Our ancestors knew that life is more than a body, that the jeeva (soul) is immortal, that a proper exit can, in fact, be elevating.

Death for Hindus is the most exalted human experience – a grand and important departure called maliaprastliana in Sanskrit. To leave the body in the right frame of mind, in the right consciousness, through the highest possible chakra is a key to spiritual progress.

There shouldn’t be a sudden or impulsive decision – instead, a quiet, slow, natural exit from the body, coupled with spiritual practices, with mantras and tantras, with scriptural readings, with joyous release, recognition and support from friends and relations.

When we discuss about preventing suicides, we should also consider these deeper issues. Just focusing on psychology and social issues won’t be sufficient.

Now, let me tell you a personal experience. One of my classmates was facing tough time with her divorce. She told me:”I am so much frustrated and depressed…I want to end my life…”

“You husband leaves you because he doesn’t love you anymore. Why do you want to commit suicide for a person who doesn’t love you?”

“He has cheated me…”

“So, he is the culprit, not you. He has a reason to commit suicide, not you…”

“But he left me… how can I face problems?”

“Every problem has a solution. There is not even single problem without solution. We can find solution for each and every problem if you acknowledge the problem as is…” We had few sessions of discussion. Now she is happily married and settled in USA.

Everybody has problems. It appears our problem is the biggest problem in the universe. We have to teach our children and students how to face problems in life. How to find non-violent solution to any problems. That’s a difficult task – but not impossible.

Our ancient scriptures guide us: “happiness remains in Karma – execution of one’s duty in life…”

Not in ending the life. Because there is no end to the life. It is in cycle for us. Not linear like in the West.

By
Udaylal Pai
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3 Responses

  1. Dr.Gopal says:

    Thought provoking and it’s beyond my praise. My salutations to Uday Pal.

  2. Anonymous says:

    Hi Udayji,

    I have been revisiting this topic several times since March…. but never got to post anything. I love your articles and have been engaging in some nice conversations with your friends regarding the various topics. We are “survivors of suicide”… The person I lost is my son-in-law. Just about a year after marriage to my daughter. They were happily married. While financial stress and fear of disappointment/failure are the most logical cause for his bad decision to leave us all…. I am still trying to find answers.

    So i have been researching and seeking to know what must have gone wrong within the person to take such an extreme step. I tried reading about karma, life after death, fate, god and all – but all are only general concepts. You have attempted to go beyond generalisation and it would have appealed as good finding, if not for the direct experience of dealing with a suicide right within our roof. It is good to explain why India saw 144000 suicide cases last year. But individually each person left behind is left in dark to cry and struggle to recover in this bad world.

    I console my daughter saying that suicide victim is similar to terminal cancer patient. counselling is like radiation therapy. sometimes it works, sometimes it extends life, sometimes it does not work. It lurks in their brain not showing up. It then suddenly envelopes their brain and takes the away. It is like a disease of the mind which the person had, which we did not know about earlier….. Why and when cancer comes no one knows…. very similar to when suicide force will strike the brain no one knows.

    I am sorry if this comment did not make sense, it would be because I could not share freely about it in public. Never wanted to write here about this, but every time I come to the end… I feel disappointment that it tried to give direction to my thoughts, but yet remains generalised for my traumatised mind right now. I know that each individual case will differ when seen at a personal level. I have consulted physiologists and counsellors who have given their highly customised and perfectly logical reasons for the suicide… but the heart does not seem to come to terms with anything. Sorry for making this very personal sad story on this public blog.

    My sincere apologies for posting with no name. I have given my true email id, and am also on your FB friend list.

  3. TOP 10 COMMENTS ON THE SPEAKING TREE

    Rajesh Patnaik
    Jul 09, 2012 at 03:06 pm
    Dr Udaylal Pai, your article is good – but did you forget something called “paragraph”? Why are there NO paragraphs in your article? The whole article looks very ugly! It looks like one unending chain of comments and observations – without any differentiations.
    Can u pls rewrite the article and make it look readable with paragraphs, like the way I’ve written below?

    Satish K D
    Jul 10, 2012 at 03:07 pm
    As always, Mr. Pai’s article is very informative. Few days back, I was in an intense debate with a colleague (who is more spiritually inclined than me). While I was talking about personal excellence, he had different views. He told me that the reason we are suffering today (and the reason why many people are resorting to measures like self-injury or suicide) is because we are becoming more and more self-centric. He said, we see ourselves only as an individual, so we attributes our success and failures as only ours (and therefore blame ourselves and get dejected whenever we fail). According to him, we are more than individuals and we must realize that our success and failure is a sum-total of so many things – our family, society, world around us, our karma (past lives and present). So, the results that we get, may not always be to our liking. In such situations, we must not feel let down.
    I liked his views and felt that if we attribute our success and failures to a higher power, the sum total of efforts of the society, parenting, karma, and god’s wish, we will probably understand that if we succeed then all of them succeeded, and if we failed then all of them failed. We are not alone in our success and failure.

    Ram Krishna Kumar R
    Jul 09, 2012 at 11:34 am
    Very good article. We are nowhere now. We left our tradition, but imitating(please note we don’t follow, we just imitate) western and Arabian culture will not take us anywhere. Look at Chinese, look at Germans, look at French…all of them are proud of their culture. They preserve the monuments of their culture. But we, still have a slaves mind to westerners and and fearful to invaders
    When will we learn? When can we see truth beyond political gains? Why have we manipulated our history just for political gain? Now we are getting punishment for what we have done. According to UN report, 40% of death will be from depression. The young Indians are easily depressed – the reasons/ Parenting, parenting and parenting.

    Delphine Pillar
    Jul 13, 2012 at 02:08 pm
    There is great cultural change I believe going on all over the world and as you stated intense pressure to succeed. Hindus are the fastest growing economic group in the world right now. Many times the young ones have to travel far from their roots and families to get jobs or education and this leaves them feeling isolated and in some instances frightened. Plus India like the USA has a clash of various cultures mixing together, different languages, and expectations. Also old and new cultural expectations are difficult to navigate. I believe the children and young people need to feel supported and accepted even when they are not first in there class. Sometimes the most successful people were not necessarily following the normal route or the expectations of others. Critical thinking needs to be learned and children taught how to think, not what to think. Einstien got kicked out of school and changed the world.
    I think this should be part of the school curriculum, teaching about depression , the signs and how to help. There is still a stigma attached to being depressed and having difficulty coping. This needs to change, young people should be encouraged to seek help privately until the stigma is overcome. We have the same problem here. We have in the schools now peer counselors which are trained to assist young people of their own age. It is a service offered and I believe a valuable one which should be instituted in every school and university. It is a difficult transition from childhood to adulthood and all the responsibility that is called for. Probably the stigma and pressure is even greater in India because mental health is still looked on very unfavorably by many. I hope this changes soon, so many of these tragedies could be avoided. Pranam, Delphine
    My work ,much of it has been in mental health.

    Anil Singh
    Jul 14, 2012 at 08:32 am
    Knowledge makes us aware of the various things in existence and their relation to one another. It also helps us in knowing how and why things happen…with the help of which we arrive at certain logical and rationalistic conclusions, opinions and attitude.
    But, as knowledge increases, we may be forced to change our conclusions, opinions and attitude, based on new findings. At this stage we should replace our old conclusions, opinions and attitude, with the new findings….just as we replace old, out dated programs on our computer with the latest versions.
    The three major constituents of the universe are Spirit, Energy and Matter, without the Spiritual Quotient being as developed as the Emotional and the Intelligence quotients,,,knowledge is never complete and disharmony between the head and heart are bound to occur…leading to faulty decisions….

    Erdman West
    Aug 02, 2012 at 05:01 pm
    I am a life long educator of young people in pre-school through college and have come to feel we fall down terribly in not teaching self-knowledge and communication. This should not be left to religion which has it’s own agenda or to families which often are not up to the job or have problems of their own with communication. I believe that people who feel connected and supported by those around them are much less likely to engage in self destructive behaviors. Communication and cooperation are the keys to human success. We are all one.

    Ramesh Shenoy
    Aug 06, 2012 at 01:46 pm
    Yes – we are neither there, nor here. there is conflict between multiple samskaras…the mind is not able to comprehend contradictions…it is natural that youngsters commit suicide.
    But before the thought of suicide, if anybody could make them reading your three articles (Chat with an ex-film star, Are You ENLIGHTENED?, Do You Believe in GOD? etc)
    If somebody is sad or depressed ask them to read this.

    Chandran Methil
    Aug 10, 2012 at 03:33 pm
    In short,there is a crisis of character in vast swathes of our society;-a lack of integrity.Witness the endemic corruption at all levels of society.A tendency to consider all else other than family,relatives,and friends fair game for cheating and exploitation.Nobody lifts a finger to help a person in distress in a public environment.Look at the attitude of the different states towards their neighbours.Politicians that cannot look beyond their noses.300 million people live in utter poverty and degradation in various parts of he country,and this, in a country which has the 3rd largest economy in Asia.Our billionaires living in $billion dollar homes amidst surrounding slums.The list is endless.Surprisingly,one also sees change and development and the country has grown in many ways.This is attributed to the millions of unheard and unreported people who go about their daily lives with courage and determination and under great challenges.
    So,what is really happening and where is the problem.I would put the finger squarely on our Institutional models;-The Administrative services,The Defence Establishment,the Media and the Political process.The first two are relics of Imperial Britain.They were established to serve British interests and not Indian welfare..We have not managed to change their mindset. They have formed a special caste unto themselves and will do their best to maintain their status quo.The same goes for the English Language media,connected as they are to International Capital.Sensationalism and yellow journalism are their watchwords.Anything that gains them increased readership..If we want to become a modern nation,we have to reinvent our Institutions.

    Tincy Mathew
    Jul 09, 2012 at 12:55 pm
    Sir, I have been reading all your blogs. I have good opinions about your blogs and consider as top ten blogs, whichever the way we look at. This also is a very good blog. However, you should have elaborated some points. Even if your blogs tend to be longer, serious readers will read. So please don’t restrict the length. May god bless you to write more and more…

    Rajesh Patnaik
    Jul 09, 2012 at 03:05 pm
    “Our ancient scriptures guide us: “happiness remains in Karma – execution of one’s duty in life… Not in ending the life.”
    Uday Lal Pai, while appreciating your thoughtful and thought-provoking article, I think you are overdoing the Indian Culture bit. That is a specious argument.
    100s & 1000s of books have been written on personality-development, human mind, maturity, spirituality and what not – and are still been written. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that the human society has evolved into a super-intelligent and super-spiritual society. Have they? No!
    My message is simple – Human societies cannot be built around such books (including the religious ones too).
    Everyone of us must understand this – NO HUMAN MAKES A CAREER OUT OF SPIRITUALITY! They make careers out of Medicine, Engineering, Computer, Singing, Dancing and what not. Their whole time is devoted to these. And quite rightly so.
    If our schools start subjects on spirituality then children’s bags will become heavier than they. Heavy school bags are a major issue in India. So no one would want that.
    Coming back to the main issue of huge no. of Indian suicides, there are a few REAL reasons behind them.
    In fact, these “real” reasons are also part-n-parcel of Indian Culture! The reasons are:
    1.Social Repression (which includes repressed upbringing of girls)
    2.Social obsession (with academic achievements)
    Boys and girls who are unable to tolerate such repressions and obsessions, feel that there’s no alternative in life. They get nervous and feel worthless and exhibit the “fight or flight” tendency. And the consequence can be suicide!
    The solutions to suicides are non-repressed upbringing of girls (so that they have more say in their lives, with financial independence) and having an open-minded approach towards career (through which people can pursue their “passion” rather than live up to parental expectations).
    The author like all those “devoted” Indian has poked holes in Western culture (in a rather aimless manner). But may I ask a very simple question: Why is it that the Western societies experience extremely low level of suicides? Why?

    Courtesy: http://www.speakingtree.in/public/spiritual-blogs/seekers/wellness/why-suicide-rate-is-highest-among-young-indians

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