Suicides in Gujarat

Human life is considered as most sacred thing yet many people across the globe from all religions attempt to self-harm and end their life by suicide. World Health Organization asserts that close to eight lakh people take their own life worldwide, with suicide attempts being much more in numbers[i]. Global scenario also suggests the problem of suicide being shifted to Asia with India and China contributing major share of suicidal deaths.

In India more than one lakh people commit suicide every year. In 1971, the suicide rate was 7.9, which gradually increased to 10.6 in 2001 and to 11.2 in 2011. During the period of 2005 to 2015, the number of suicides have increased by 17 percent; while the rate of suicides increased slightly by 2.9 percent.[ii]  Suicides across dominant religions for the year 2015 presents interesting fact with highest suicide rate of 17 per lakh population found among the Christians. Hindus suicide rate stands at 11.3 per lakh population. Suicide rates of both these communities were above the national average of 10 per lakh population for the year. Unlike them, the corresponding suicide rates among Muslims and Sikhs were however much lower with former showing the least among all. [iii]

The public health dimension and the significance of the subject compelled our team at Centre for Culture and Development, Vadodara, to look at the suicide scenario in Gujarat. Our study based on secondary data of NCRB reports looked at trends and patterns of suicide deaths over the selected time period (census years of 1971 to 2011 and annual years from 2011 to 2015). Key findings are presented in the subsequent sections.

 I

Gujarat Scenario

Gujarat had reported significant proportion of suicides in the western region[iv]. Its suicide rate showed a gradual rise with upward trend. In 2015, state reported 7,246 suicides indicating a suicide rate of 11.6 per one lakh population, which was above the national average. Even during 2012 to 2014, its suicide rates were more than the national ones.

                      Table 1: Suicide Rates in Gujarat (1971-1991 & 2011-2015)

Years

Numbers of  Suicides in Gujarat

Gujarat Suicide Rate (per 100,000)

National Suicide Rate  (per 100,000)

1971

2,169

8.1

7.9

1981

1,625

4.8

5.9

1991

3,052

7.4

9.2

2001

4,791

9.5

10.6

2011

6,382

10.6

11.2

2012

7,110

11.8

11.2

2013

7,116

11.8

11.0

2014

7,225

11.7

10.6

2015

7,246

11.6

10.6

Source: NCRB Data

The Age distribution showed 15-29 years being more prone to suicide followed by the age group of 31-44 years. Both the age groups together constitutes above 70% of suicides in 2001 and during 2011 to 2013. In other age groups, suicidal incidents not high, but one can witness the slow rise of suicides among the elderly.

In terms of gender, Gujarat state follows the national trend of more males committing suicide as compared to females. They also present increasing trend over the years of selected period, with their proportion being above 60% during 2011 to 2015 and a rise of 04 % over the five years. Suicidal proportion by females mostly remained in between 35% to 38%.

Marital status revealed that suicides are more among married people than the people of other marital status, mainly accounting around 70% and above (2011 to 2015). They also had larger share of males than of females. Suicides by the ‘never-married’ people remained in between 20% to 23% across the years.

Following national trend, the educational status of people committing suicides across years depicted a high number of them being educated up to the primary (in between 35% to 40%). The group of people with higher secondary education has shown a rise as suicides doubled in 2015 (12.5%) form 2011 (5.5%). Suicides by those with higher educational qualification remained low but one may notice a growing difference across the years. Occupational status suggests a high inclination of suicide (excluding 2014 and 2015) amongst housewives (25%) and self-employed people. It is crucial to note that, in 2001 and 2014, Gujarat ranked at the top with the highest percentage for suicides among ‘housewives’, compared to all the states in India. Suicides by daily wage earners exceeded suicides by both major groups in 2014-2015, thus making it the third significant suicidal risk group. Also compared to all the Indian states, the state was at 15th position in 2014 for the high suicides by daily wage earners, but in 2015, it shifted to show the third highest percentages after Telangana and Tamilnadu for their suicides.

Causes behind suicides showed socio-psychological and medical causes.  Under them, family problems and prolonged illness remain prominent. However, both causes eventually, record a flux in its pattern implying a gradual decrease over the years of two periods. Mental illness/insanity is the third important cause in the state as it compelled 6% to 12% of people to commit suicide, across the years of two periods. Moreover, compared to census years, mental illness took more lives annually (except 2014). In 2015, suicides due to mental illness almost doubled to 11.8 % as against 6.1 % in 2014. Also, in 2015, it was the second major cause after family problems that lead people to suicide.

By various means, consuming poison and hanging appeared to be the most common method of committing suicide, showing similarity to the national trend. Over the period, hanging showed rising trend while consuming poison declined especially over the years of 2011 to 2015. Self-immolation was another mode of suicide but was used largely by females.

Sub-Regions of Gujarat

Suicide trends and patterns in the sub-regions of Gujarat highlight that for all the variables (age, gender, education, marital status, and others), Saurashtra region contributed major proportions of suicide (with few exceptions) followed by either North or South Gujarat over the years. However, decreasing trend is visible in Saurashtra while in other two regions suicides are on rise for many risk-variables. Kutch region had a lower proportion of suicides. Further, gender profile over the years suggests Saurashtra and Kutch regions reporting higher percentage of females.

In certain cases unlike Saurashtra other regions showed higher suicidal trends. For instance, North Gujarat records higher proportion of suicides in the educational groups of secondary, diploma holders, and graduates. Likewise, it also reports maximum percentages for the suicidal cause as love affairs, followed by Central and South Gujarat. Maximum suicides over the years caused by property disputes and poverty as found in Central Gujarat. Drug addiction as a cause of suicide was more evident in the regions of North, Central, and South Gujarat. In terms of adopted suicide modes, drowning and self-injury was more common in North Gujarat. Jumping off from sites/vehicles or standing in front of vehicles remained highest in the Railway tracks while use of firearms was mostly seen in North and Central Gujarat.

II

 Trends and patterns of different variables over several years in the state of Gujarat highlight mixed trends. Largely Gujarat showed in following a national trend as in major variables like age, gender, education, causes, and suicidal modes. Overall, suicidal deaths in the state have been rising and occurring more frequently in the Saurashtra region followed by North Gujarat and South Gujarat. Within sub-regions (excluding Kutch and Railways), there were prominent districts with significant suicidal proportions for various risk-groups/variables:

  • Saurashtra Region- Rajkot-city and rural, Bhavnagar, Junagarh, Jamnagar;
  • South Gujarat- Surat-city and rural, Navsari, Valsad, Bharuch;
  • North Gujarat- Ahmedabad-city and rural, Gandhinagar, Banaskantha, Sabarkantha, Gandhinagar, Mehsana; and
  • Central Gujarat-Vadodara-city and rural, Kheda, Anand.

It is believed that suicide deaths are much more prevalent than what official data reports. There occur much more suicide attempts, which lack any reporting or recording. Since 1992, 10th October is celebrated as World Mental Health day. However, element of taboo, social stigma and concealment pose serious problem and hindrance to understand suicide and suicidal behavior.  In view of increasing presence of suicide deaths and mental disorders, at the global, national and in the state level it is high time to address this issue  as a public social health issue. It is important that preventive efforts should be given importance. Those who commit suicide are often trying to get away from the life crisis, adverse situations and difficulties. Role of family, mental helath professionals along with community thus becomes significant  in this context.

[i] http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs398/en/

[ii] National Crime Record Bureau (NCRB). 2015. Accidental Deaths and Suicides in India. Ministry of Home Affairs, New Delhi Government of India.

[iii] Deeptiman, Tiwari. 2016. NCRB figures show highest suicide rates among Christians, Dalits and Tribals, Indian Express, June 5.

[iv] For analysis purpose, Indian states are classified into six regions. Western region included states of Goa, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Rajasthan. Other regions and included: Southern Region, Eastern Region, North and Central Region, Northeastern Region and Union Territories.

Dr.Kanchan Bharati

Assistant Professor

Centre for Culture and Development