WHO data shows 2.2 lakh suicide deaths happen per year in India making upcoming World Mental Health Day's theme more relevant

The theme of this year is 'Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention', an important subject for us in the 21st century. India sees more than two lakh suicides each year, many of them by young adults aged 15 to 39 years, according to the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2016.

Myupchar October 07, 2019 13:24:30 IST
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WHO data shows 2.2 lakh suicide deaths happen per year in India making upcoming World Mental Health Day's theme more relevant
  • World Mental Health Day is on 10 October, but activities to mark the day for raising awareness already started

  • The theme of this year is 'Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention', an important subject for us in the 21st century

  • India sees more than two lakh suicides each year, many of them by young adults aged 15 to 39 years

World Mental Health Day is on 10 October, but activities to mark the day for raising awareness and making mental healthcare accessible have already started. On 2 October, actor Aamir Khan retweeted Dr Harish Shetty, to champion “emotional hygiene” as a way to nip stress and depression in the bud. An astute observation, given the theme this year.

What is World Mental Health Day?

The World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) has observed 10 October as World Mental Health Day every year since 1992. With partners in 90 countries, WFMH works to raise awareness about mental health conditions from depression to suicide around the world.

WHO data shows 22 lakh suicide deaths happen per year in India making upcoming World Mental Health Days theme more relevant

Representational image. Reuters

This year's theme

This year’s theme – “Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention” is an important subject for us in the 21st century.

World Health Organization (WHO) data show that globally close to eight lakh people die by suicide every year. Studies further show that a large percentage of suicides are preventable if people get timely and adequate treatment for mental health disorders.

Indian scenario

India sees more than two lakh suicides each year, many of them by young adults aged 15 to 39 years, according to the Global Burden of Diseases Study 2016. Additionally, more women die as a result of suicide in India than men. WHO data also show that the rate of suicide in India is 16.3 per 100,000 or 2.2 lakh suicide deaths a year, this amounts to more than one-fourth of all deaths by suicide in the world.

Mental health awareness is increasingly getting more attention in the country, recently, a working group committee of India’s National Health Authority and the Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority of India said that mental health conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease could no longer be excluded from health insurance packages.

Still, a lot more needs to be done. At just 6,000 psychiatrists for 1.35 billion people, India has a very low ratio of mental health experts. Mental health is a key part of the Sustainable Development Goals that India, along with 192 other countries has signed up for. But with just 0.3 psychiatrists, 0.12 psychologists and 0.07 social workers per 100,000 Indians, there is a chance we could miss this target.

Suicide prevention

Global agencies like the WHO have already done research on suicide prevention. In a detailed WHMF brochure, Gabriel Ivbijaro and others wrote that suicide prevention programmes in schools and communities as well as restricting access to toxic chemicals and weapons can help to reduce the rate of suicides.

The writers also shared recommendations for providing better mental healthcare and suicide prevention. Some of those recommendations include:

  • Improve mental health literacy among the people so they can identify signs of mental distress and mental illness among peers, colleagues, friends, and family
  • Provide “psychological first aid” training to medical staff and first responders
  • Increase government funding for suicide prevention programmes

India is currently losing the suicide prevention battle on many fronts, not least of them is the stigma attached to mental illness. World Mental Health Day, and endorsements from celebrities like Aamir Khan, could go a long way to normalise the idea of seeking psychiatric help.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our article on Mental Illness.

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