Saturday, June 24, 2006

Staggering stats

Morbid as it may be, news reports on suicide always draw my attention. And I'm always shocked at just how different the phenomenon is in the U.S. and India.

Today HT, in "Girls are more prone to [suicide]" by Suchita Sharma, highlights some of these discrepancies. Though her article emphasizes gender dynamics -- whereas in the West men are about four times more likely to commit (not attempt) suicide than women, in India women commit ~55% of suicides (according to an AIIMS study of suicides among persons aged 10-18 in South Delhi) -- the report also contains a number that absolutely blew me away.

Sharma writes:

"Suicide rates were double for girls in Tamil Nadu as compared to boys, reported The Lancet in 2004. The study reported a high average suicide rate for girls in the 10-19 years age group [of] 148 per 1 lakh [100,000] populationcompared with 58 suicides per 1 lakh boys. Globally, the suicide rate is 6.8 per 1 lakh for women, and 24 per lakh for men.

Researchers at Vellore's Christian Medical College, where the study was done, insist that their findings are not 'a local aberration.' 'We suggest that reported rates of suicide in other parts of India are low because identification of suicides is difficult owing to inefficient civil registration systems, non-reporting of deaths, variable standards in certifying death, and the legal and social consequence of suicide.'"

I find it shocking that the incidence of suicide among young women in this case is more than 21 times that in the West; and, even if you discount the gender effect, suicide seems -- according to this study -- a much larger problem here, though it is not accorded the same sociological space as in the U.S. (which could be one reason for discrepancy, but what do I know).

Thoughts? Mountain out of a mole hill, or genuine problem?

If you or anyone you know (in India) is considering suicide or has mentioned wanting to die, please contact one of these SUICIDE HELPLINES.

Sumaitri Befrienders India: 23389090
Sanjeevani Society for Mental Health: 24311918 or 26864488
Naz Foundation (India) Trust: 26851970 or 26851971
Tulsi Rehab Centre: 9891006875


Anonymous said...

T: Not even sure what your full first name is. Almost like reading a 19th century novel. I'll cut it short: I'm a freelance book critic (San Francisco Chronicle, Harvard Review, other papers and lit mags) in the States. Right now I'm riding the tide in New Orleans. Before I was in Chicago (Lakeview/Wrigleyville) for a year, and before that, New York City, where I went to college and then worked for a poetry library for a few years. Anyway, I'm looking to move to Delhi for a year or so, starting in September. A search for "Nizaumuddin rentals," (or some incarnation of that phrase) returned your blog. From what I can gather you're about my age (born in '81, I was). Any advice for this gringo? I planned to continue to freelance for American pubs while in India, but if I could get a job copy editing, all the better. I'd love to pick your brain about the job market, housing market, etc. over there. Is there an e-mail address I can contact you at?

Never Just An Ordinary Girl said...

Hi there!

Pleased to meetcha -- sounds like we have quite a lot in common. Send me an e(-mail) at; I'll reply in my personal e-mail, which I keep hidden because it contains my real name, and I've had a bad experience with my online activities colliding with reality. Drop me a line soon!

Mr. Dubious said...


Thanks for sending your comments to my blog. I am a new blogger and I am in the process of learning the tricks. So, I still do not know how to link your blog to my blog on the side bar as others. Any comments will be appreciated.

It is very sad, the number of suicides are so high in female in India. I do not think suicide by anyone is right.

I suspect, it has a lot to do with the social-economic transformation that is sweeping the country. It is tempting to conclude that, Indian society cuts a raw deal for woman (true) and therefore they commit suicide more than men.

Once again, I think the issue is much larger than that. Every single year, the 12th grade students are put under lots of pressure to comepete and excel. Invariably students in tamilnadu (my home)commit suicide over scores for not getting in to medical school. The numbers are disturbing, more of them are girls than boys.

On the one hand, overall academic qualifications of Indian girls is less than Indian men, at the same time they do much better than boys in all the academic disciplines (staistics support this). But, I think girls respond to failure (meaning, scoring below their expectations)differently than boys.

I blame the Indian families for all this. The illusion that, if you do not top your class, you are a failure cuts through all throughout the country.

My nephew scored 98% and his family is happy, but my niece scores 93% and they are mourning the failure!!!!

For me, anything above 80% is good enough to excel in medical school. In the US 93% will get you in medical school as a cake walk. Lack of vision and medical schools to accomodate the increasing number of students coming out of school is a primary reason for all of this.

I do not pretend to know all the reasons, this my two cents on this issue.

Once again, thanks for stopping by my blog.

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