Psychological disorders, depression, and social isolation are a phenomenon that the pandemic has exacerbated. For this reason, the Catholic Church in India has launched an articulated program of psychosocial support through online counseling offered to people in difficulty. The service, taken care of through specialists contacted by Caritas India, “has become all the more necessary because thousands of people commit suicide every year and the number is constantly growing every year”, explained to Fides Fr. Paul Moonjely, executive director of Caritas India.
“To dispel simplistic views on suicides and put an end to the taboo around the discussion of mental health problems, the teams coordinated by Caritas India are committed to reaching out to those who are vulnerable and in need of psychosocial support”, said Father Moonjely.
According to data released in early September by the National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, more than 139,000 Indians died from suicide in 2019, 67%, or (93,061) of whom were young. Compared to the 2018 numbers (89,407), youth suicides in India have increased by 4%. Overall suicide figures increased 3.4% over the same period.
A detailed breakdown by age and causes of suicides, described in the NCRB report, reveals that family problems, marriage-related problems, love affairs, drug abuse, alcohol addiction, mental illness appear as the leading cause of suicide among young people.
The NCRB report shows that in 2019, two-thirds of those who died from suicide earned less than 278 rupees (US $ 3.79) per day, which is sometimes lower than the minimum wage provided for in the Mahatma Gandhi National Rural Employment Guarantee Act, a federal government’s national poverty reduction program. Only 30% of the suicide victims had annual earnings of between one hundred thousand and five hundred thousand rupees. This data indicates a link between suicide and poverty. Out of a total of 97,613 men who died from suicide, the daily wage earners represented 29,092. Among women, the daily wage earners were present, after housewives and students, in the first three categories. The daily wage earners make up the group of the population with the lowest income in India. This category also includes “agricultural laborers who carry out daily work during the various non-agricultural seasons.
“In general, mental health is not a priority for most people in India. The government does not pay enough attention towards this problem”, Sabita Parmer, a psychologist, told Fides. “NGOs, civil society groups, religious organizations must help people in need through psychosocial support, especially during the pandemic that is putting a strain on people’s health”, she says, praising the Church’s initiative to commit for the promotion of people’s psychological well-being.
Dr. Samir Parikh, psychiatrist, and director of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences at the “Fortis Healthcare” clinic in New Delhi, stresses in an interview with Fides: “Mental disorders and those deriving from addictions must be considered to all intents and purposes illness to be treated at a medical level and with the contribution of the national health system. For the good of society, and in order to prevent the phenomenon of suicide, it is necessary to stop thinking that people suffering from these disorders are false patients, or that it is a matter of personal choices. It is important to work at a cultural and social level to change a widespread mentality”.