By MOHD ABDUL SHAKOOR
A lot could be found on the web, when someone searches for ‘Suicide Statistics’ or a similar keyword. There have been detailed reports published by various departments and NGOs on the figures (numbers) and the stated reasons behind a person dying by suicide. I pick a few from those, as I move towards my point of contention, in an attempt to realize where we stand, in 2022, while we are observing an awareness day by the name ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’ on every 10th of September, since 2013.
As per a recent report by NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau), India has seen a rise of 7.2% from 2020 to 2021, in the deaths by suicide. The report further stipulates that more than one lakh people die by suicide in the country every year, and this figure is enough to make India stand on top of the world for that year. Of these, fifteen percent come from megacities. And astonishingly, just four metropolitan cities (viz. Bangalore, Mumbai, Chennai & Delhi) account for almost 35% of the deaths by suicide in a study conducted in 53 megacities. Women account to one-third of these cases.
Suicide victims by sex
The reasons as stated are varying. The report released by NCRB mentioned these reasons, as illustrated in the following pie chart. It is disturbing to note that the very family – which is meant to be a homely place for us humans, has turned out to be the very reason why we would give up on life.
Elephant in the room!?
No doubt the sensitization of the problem, and a general awareness of its prevention has increased among masses. Psychologists, therapists, NGOs as well as individuals, have come forward and extended help to the ones in despair, offering free counseling sessions and running online ‘Talk-to-Someone’ campaigns, for instance. For prevention of suicide, we talk about hope, love & confidence and advise strength to the distressed. We also exhort one another to be vigilant, and address any such issues hinting suicide, in a constructive manner, often encouraging him/her to consult a therapist/psychologist. We inspire each other to lend an ear, as we believe that sharing often minimizes the problem. Yet there seems to be an undermined if not missing element, in our discussions, when it comes to ‘prevention’ of suicides.
The Role of ‘System’ in Suicides
No person reaches to the verge of suicide, suddenly. Before that, he/she crosses several stages of smaller/atomic deaths, at all levels, which cumulatively adds up to one final ultimatum – The Suicide. When talking about ‘prevention’, majority of our discussions start after the person has reached the final stage, neglecting all the non-physical deaths (suicides) that he/she has already been through. But what has pushed him/her till this stage is a question to reflect upon. In this trajectory of suicide, the ‘system’ plays a major role for the person to traverse the path that he/she should not have. However, we tend not to blame the ‘system’ but the individual; and hence we tend to plan strategies to curb suicide centered around the individual but not the society, given it (the system) has never been seen as one of the culprits in this crime one inflicts upon one’s own self.
I shall count on a few examples to elaborate this point. In a casual talk with my friend on this topic, he discussed with me three different cases of suicides that he has seen live, two of whom gave up their lives, while one was saved in time. In the first case, the reason was the boy’s obesity, which made him face uncountable rejections. In the second case, the reason was the stress developed on the person by his family & the locality, after his father had married a second wife. And as for the third case, an MD pursuing student ends up life, unable to cope up with the senior doctors’ behaviors. These reasons appear to be three distinct ones, but in their roots, it is only one – the attitude of the system towards us. Before reaching the final stage, all the three have come through those atomic deaths which were not physically described – the death of their emotions, the death of their dreams, the death of their ideas, and so on. These deaths were indeed pushed by the system. It would then cumulate to something that those with their eyes open and whose sanity is unaltered could see through – the final physical death. It is here where the problem originates. Intelligently, this element (or rather one could call the elephant in the room) manages to escape every time, while the ‘individual’ remains in the witness box, as the culprit, listening to lectures on love, hope & strength.
When we talk about ‘prevention’ of suicides, we simply cannot go by not taking into account the direct role of the system, pushing a person to walk on this path, and reach to the final stage, where death becomes physical.
Attempting some structural changes in society
There is a famous notion that society would anyhow play ugly on you. This has been quite problematic. It resulted in curbing any effort towards a positive change in the society, rendering us a passive spectator of the horrors it has unleashed upon the society. ‘System’ is made up of us – the humans. Every individual in the society acts as a constituent in the system. Qur’an talks about the best people on the planet and mentions their unique quality:- they enjoin/prompt people on Good (Al-Ma’roof) and forbid them from evil (Al-Munkar). This act, i.e. prompting people for good, and forbidding them from evil, is a vital sign of the society. Without this in action, a society is dead.
It is here where we must show vigilance, at least equally if not more than we need to show when someone hints suicide – staying alert against any evil that’d creep into the system and enjoining good to each other.
Our Dealings – The Way We Treat Each Other
The functioning of any system is essentially the way two humans treat/deal with each other. Qur’an guides us with commandments based on which the most upright society’s foundation can be laid.
The Almighty declares every human honored, dismantling all the shackles of caste and superiority so that we confer to every person his/her due respect which one deserves by virtue of being a human.
Between two people dealing with each other, The Almighty commands us to fulfill our obligations and keep up the promises that we make, no matter what. Noting the harm that one single tongue can do, Qur’an teaches us the virtues of a good talk. It says, ‘A kind word and forgiveness is better than a charity followed by hurtful words’ . Islam commands us to fear God and utter the right word – free of taunt, deception and partiality. It commands us to restrain from backbiting, comparing it (backbiting) with eating the flesh of one’s dead brother.
Secret talks, often to defame somebody, turn out to be the deadliest cancers. Yet again, criticism is inevitable. And a system cannot function unless checked on time and evaluated for good. Qur’an tells us that there is no good in most of the secret talks, except in the case of those which are done to promote charity, kindness and to reconcile two people. And when we are to respond to somebody’s actions, respond in a much better way, or at least in an equal way. And when we face an ignorant person, respond with ‘Peace’.
I intend to unpack the topic – ‘the role of ‘system’ in suicides’ further, in my upcoming writings, as the topic demands a thorough work. I conclude by quoting a couplet from the famous poem, ‘Saas Bahu’, by the Deccani poet Sulaiman Khateeb,
“Baat har baat ko nahi kehte\ Baat mushkil se baat hoti hai”
Not all talks can be considered ‘talks’. It takes a huge effort to make what is called ‘A talk’ .
Let us strive to create a society where we’d learn how to talk, for a talk either builds up, or breaks us into fragments (suicide).
[Views expressed are personal.]
 Narayanan, Jayashree (30 August 2022). “NCRB report 2021: 7.2 per cent increase in death by suicide; experts say ‘busting myths, stigma is crucial‘”. The Indian Express.
 “45,026 females committed suicide in 2021, over half were housewives”. The Hindu. 30 August 2022.
 Quran, Chapter 3, Verse 104, 110; Chapter 9, Verse 71, 112; Chapter 22, Verse 41; Chapter 31, Verse 17,
 Quran, Chapter 17, Verse 70
 Quran, Chapter 2, Verse 263
 Quran, Chapter 33, Verse 60
 Quran, Chapter 4, Verse 114
 Quran, Chapter 4, Verse 86, Quran, Chapter 25, Verse 63