ON June 26, two suicidal deaths were reported in the valley. A day earlier, on June 25, a 17-year-old boy, hailing from Kupwara, ended his life by committing suicide in Srinagar. In recent months, Kashmir has witnessed a worrying trend of an increase in suicide cases, and there seems to be no end to this menace. In essence, several interplaying factors have led to an increase in suicidal attempts, such as the political situation of Kashmir, the lack of mental health infrastructure, and the norms of Kashmir’s society.
The ongoing conflict has put tremendous mental pressure on the population of Kashmir, and a large proportion of the population now suffers from stress-related diseases. As per the survey conducted by Doctors Without Borders in 2015, 1.8 million people in the valley suffer from depression-related diseases. These diseases could easily lead up to suicides if proper counselling is not offered to the victims, and therefore concrete efforts are required to help the mental health patients of Kashmir. Nonetheless, a lack of mental health infrastructure persists in the valley, and only one hospital, Govt. Psychiatric Diseases Hospital, Srinagar, caters to the demands of 1.8 million people. The location of this hospital in Srinagar further means that patients from poor backgrounds and far-flung areas do not have access to it. Thus, setting up effective mental health facilities in every district of Kashmir and raising awareness about mental health issues may reduce suicidal attempts and deaths.
Additionally, other than upgrading mental health infrastructure, it is important to identify those sections of the society in which suicides are prevalent. Off late, in Kashmir, suicides are on a rise among women and the youth. In women, the most common cause of suicide is domestic violence. Partly, domestic violence can be attributed to the patriarchal nature of Kashmir’s society, where women are often subordinated and lack agency in marital affairs. Consequently, when women become subjects of domestic violence, they attempt suicide as a last recourse. Therefore, making collective efforts towards ending domestic violence may result in a decrease in the number of suicides among women.
When it comes to the youth of Kashmir, several factors, such as betrayal in relations, lack of choice in choosing their career paths, forced marriages, drug abuse, etc., can be potential causes of suicide. Two steps could help to reduce suicides among the youth: (1) the administration needs to set up more de-addiction centres and provide psychological help to drug addicts and (2) Communitarian efforts to enlighten the youth about the after-effects of suicide are required. Moreover, parents have to give much more agency to their children in matters concerning their career or marriage. More agency means that the youth will not be forced to make decisions that can potentially lead to suicides in future.
While the causes and suggestions cited above are not exhaustive, they can provide a framework to understand and address rising suicides in Kashmir.
Suhail Ahmad Khan
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