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  Mens Sana Monographs
A Monograph Series Devoted To The Understanding Of Medicine, Mental Health, Man, Mind, Music And Their Matrix
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Year : 2004  |  Volume : 2  |  Issue : 1  |  Page : 39-40
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Suicide Rates Under-reported

(In a communication, Prof. K. S. Jacob, M.D., Ph.D., Prof. of Psychiatry, Chris­tian Medical College, Vellore, shares the findings of their interesting rural study us­ing verbal autopsies conducted between 1994-9 as a collaborative study between their Dept. of Community Health and Dept. of Psychiatry. This was published in BMJ, Vol. 326, dated 24 May 2003. The study makes the point that suicide rates are grossly under-reported. Accurate data-collection can give a true indication of real suicide rates. We share concluding remarks of their study below.- Eds)
"Verbal autopsies can give a good idea of the cause of death from suicide in the developing world, where coroners' verdicts are not available. A community health programme in the Kaniyambadi region of India found that recent studies in India have under-reported suicide rates by two to three times. The independently verified method used verbal autopsies and found the rate in 1994-9 was 95.2/100 000 population, nine times the national average. The high rates are not likely to be peculiar to Kaniyambadi; they reflect more accurate data collection. Sentinel centres that accurately monitor suicide are needed in the developing world." (Joseph et al, 2003)*

I am thrilled!
"I am thrilled to receive your monograph on suicide prevention. I have gone through its contents and find that you have made an in-depth analysis in language that is simple and elegant. I am proud to have known you for almost 30 years, right from our under graduate days in KEM. Keep up the good work."

Quresh B. Maskati M.S., D.O.M.S., F.C.P.S. (Hon. Opthalmic Surgeon, Wadia Childrens', Saifee and Habib Hospitals, Mumbai.

Convert into actionable points

I congratulate you for your article "Towards a suicide free society". It is very timely and also comprehensive.

Concidentally, I have also been writing about suicide prevention in the context of suicides in Chandigarh as well as suicides of farmers in Karnataka.

I personally think that each one of the topics you have taken up should be convertible in actionable point, so that people at the level of individuals, fami­lies, communities, professionals, administrators and media can respond to the same.* I hope you will find my approach relevant to your future work. I again congratulate you for this very important initiative.

R. Srinivasa Murthy

Prof. of Psychiatry


* Editors Note : Prof Murty makes a very valid point, for the problem having being identified, what concrete steps could be taken in the form of points of action need to be identified by concerned individuals and agencies as well. Let us make a start with some points:

I) Identify the population at risk:

  1. those living alone.
  2. widows without children and without financial security.
  3. people living alone in lodging homes for prol onged periods.
  4. those who suffer great financial loss or severe loss of self-esteem.
  5. people without social or financial support e.g. recent farmers suicides
  6. those who have made past suicidal attempt.
  7. psychiatric patients with suicidal ideation, or with past suicidal attempt.
  8. those chronically ill with medical illnesses like cancer, AIDS, Chronic renal disease, other debilitating illnesses etc.
  9. Students failing SSC, HSC exams with stressful parent -child interaction at home and/or no one to communicate with.

II) Establish Centers to treat Depression.

III) Remove Social Stigma attached to suicide/suicidal attempt.

IV) Socio-political changes may be necessary, but gross destabilization is to be avoided. Help at risk population, specially migrants with poor financial/ social support


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