India has 364 million (10-29 years) youth making it one of the youngest countries globally. And like young people everywhere, they struggle with all the pains of growing up: body image issues, bullying, peer pressure, sexuality, gender identity, exam pressures, career choices, relationship complexities, eating disorders, substance abuse, porn addiction, parental problems and so on. All of these stressors, if left untreated leads to anxiety and depression, or the pre-existence of mental health disorders (including anxiety or depression) compounds the stressors of growing up.
According to a 2016 study published in the Asian Journal of Psychiatry the level of depression among university students is a whopping 53.2 percent. Untreated depression and anxiety can lead to emotional, functional and physical problems like lack of sleep, inattentiveness, drug abuse, excessive drinking, losing weight or putting on too much, panic attacks, social isolation, mood swings, anger issues, social isolation, dropping out of school or college and self-injury. Sometimes, the inability to deal with these issues, lack of mental health help, combined with the stigma and taboo surrounding mental health issues lead to suicides.
“These deaths result from poor relationships with parents, excessive expectations, the feeling of being unwanted, poor understanding of their peer/romantic relationships. These result in an impulsive decision or a long thought-out deliberate suicide” : Shaibya Saldanha, co-Founder of Enfold India, an NGO which works with children and adolescents.
Suicide is the leading cause of death among India’s youth aged 10-24 years, with suicide rates, being among the highest globally. Around 75,000 students died by suicide in India between 2007 and 2016. According to a reply to the Lok Sabha by H G Ahir, Minister of State for Home Affairs, on January 2, 2018, student suicides have increased 52 percent – from 17 every day (6,248) in 2007 to 26 every day (9,474 ) in 2016.
Suicide is preventable. How?
Early diagnosis and treatment of stress, anxiety, depression and other mental health disorders
Early recognition of signs of suicide and timely intervention
Strong support from parents, peers, teachers and school counselors
Self-care practice that includes exercise, therapy, proper diet and nutrition, adequate sleep and pursuing hobbies
Gatekeeper training for students, teachers, admin staff and campus counselors
Mental health support in terms of medication and/or therapy