"Death is not the greatest loss in life. The greatest loss is what dies inside us while we live”. -Norman Cousins
Suicide, an act of intentionally taking one’s own life, has come to forefront as a significant public health concern worldwide. This phenomena is particularly pressing in India, where rising cases have culminated in the country, being ranked first in death by suicide in south-east Asia.
One region that has garnered considerable attention is Jammu and Kashmir, as an amplified prevalence of suicide has been observed, especially among women. Unfortunately, despite the growing concern and awareness about this issue, official statistics in Jammu and Kashmir demonstrate an increase in cases in recent years.
According to the National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB) report, the rate of suicide in Jammu and Kashmir has increased and gone up 26-fold, from 0.5 per hundred thousand population.
According to the report more than 20,000 people have attempted suicide during the decade 2010-2020. And the valley alone has witnessed 3024 cases of suicide deaths during this decade and most of them were in the 16 to 25 age group.
The population affected the most has been women, and the numbers are devastating with more than 200 percent increase in the number of suicide cases.
Poet Rumi, rightly said, “the wound is the place where the light enters you,” in the context of Jammu and Kashmir.
The valley has witnessed prolonged conflict and violence that deeply affects the mental and emotional health of its people. These issues have led to depression, anxiety and trauma, making people vulnerable to suicide.
Moreover, the gender specific, cultural and societal expectations, create a hostile environment for women in the region, leading to increased mental health issues.
A myriad of social, cultural and economic factors are believed to influence the high rate of suicides among women in Jammu and Kashmir. Prominent issues such as gender-based inequalities, patriarchy, domestic violence, marriage related disputes and mental health disorders contribute to exacerbating vulnerabilities in women.
To address this issue, there is a need for a concerted efforts by government, healthcare professionals, civil society and individuals. I strongly believe that we need to do more to address this issue.
We need better access to mental health services, wellness centres, awareness campaigns, to reduce the stigma around mental health issues and greater investment in education and economic opportunities for women.
We also need to change the societal norms and beliefs that contribute to the sense of hopelessness and isolation that many women in Jammu and Kashmir experience.
We must remember that behind every suicide statistic, there is a human story. Each of these women had dreams, hopes and aspirations, but something pushed them to a point where they felt like their life had no value. As a society, we must work to create a world where every person feels valued, loved and supported. We must join hands to promote awareness and initiatives that can help people overcome suicidal tendencies as I remind some stanzas which goes like this in the context of hope,
“Though the night be dark and dreary, darkness cannot hide his face; He will not leave us in disgrace.”
The way these stanzas encourages us to remember that even in the darkest of times, there is a higher power that is watching over us and will not abandon us. It can serve as a reminder to hold on and keep going, even when things seem impossible. I would like to end this piece with a few lines that capture the pain and despair that many women in Jammu and Kashmir feel: “the sky is dark, my heart is heavy, I feel like giving up, like I am not ready, to face another day of pain and sorrow, where there is no hope for a better tomorrow.”
Let us come together as a society and fight against suicide. Let us create a world where every person, especially women, can live with dignity, respect and hope.
“Let us not look back in anger, nor forward in fear, but around in awareness.” James Thurber.
Author is a former Member Legislative Council, J&K.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.