The Government of India’s Ministry of Health and Family Welfare recently announced the “National Suicide Prevention Strategy.” It is the country’s first of its kind, with time-bound action plans and cross-sector collaborations aimed at reducing suicide mortality by 10% by 2030. The strategy is consistent with the World Health Organization’s South East Asia Region Suicide Prevention Strategy.
- India has the highest rate of suicide in Southeast Asia.
- According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 1,34,516 cases of suicide were reported in India in 2018.
- The suicide rate increased from 9.9 in 2017 to 10.2 in 2018.
National Strategy for Suicide Prevention
- The strategy aims to establish effective suicide surveillance mechanisms within the next three years.
- Within the next five years, it aims to establish psychiatric outpatient departments that will provide suicide prevention services through the District Mental Health Programme in all districts.
- It also intends to implement a mental health curriculum in all educational institutions over the next eight years.
- It intends to develop guidelines for responsible media reporting of suicides, as well as to restrict access to means of suicide.
- Government of India Initiatives
- Mental Health Act of 2017:
- MHA 2017 aims to provide mental healthcare services to people suffering from mental illnesses.
- Kiran: o The Ministry of Social Justice and Empowerment has launched a 24-hour toll-free helpline called “KIRAN” to assist people suffering from anxiety, stress, depression, suicidal ideation, and other mental health issues.
- Manodarpan Initiative: o Manodarpan is a Ministry of Education initiative under the Atmanirbhar Bharat Abhiyan. Its goal is to provide students, family members, and teachers with psychosocial support for their mental health and well-being during Covid-19.
- Decriminalization: According to Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (IPC), anyone who attempts to commit suicide and commits any act toward the commission of such offence shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year, a fine, or both.
- Section 115 (1) of the Mental Healthcare Act 2017 states, “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the IPC, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code.” In the case of a suicide attempt, there is a presumption of severe stress.
Conclusion and next steps
- Restricting access to suicide tools such as highly toxic pesticides and firearms.
- Educating the media on proper suicide reporting.
- Developing adolescents’ socio-emotional life skills.
- Suicidal thoughts and behaviour should be identified, assessed, managed, and followed up on as soon as possible.
- These had to work in tandem with foundational pillars such as situation analysis, multi-sectoral collaboration, awareness raising, capacity building, financing, surveillance, monitoring, and evaluation.