A look at the data
So what does this picture suggest for policymakers? Well, that if every life is equally worth saving, then it makes sense to prioritise family problems and illnesses as causes of preventing suicides. Targeting suicides among farmers is no doubt a worthy cause and it gets a lot of media attention, but what about the young people who decide that there is no life after failing in love or in exams?
Suicides are an emotional subject. But addressing the problem requires an unsentimental and dispassionate analysis. Unfortunately the passionate arguments made by presumably well-meaning activists risk distorting policy priorities that ultimately result in unsatisfactory outcomes.
In a recent paper in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, Lakshmi Vijaykumar writes that if the results of two large epidemiological verbal autopsies are extrapolated, the actual number of suicides could rise to six to nine time higher than the official figures, or at least half-a-million suicides every year. She draws attention to an “urgent need develop a national plan for suicide prevention in India”.
Update:Does anyone have a copy of Dr Nagaraj’s report, mentioned here?