A panel discussion on approaches to suicide prevention in India was held in New Delhi, 10 August 2022


New Delhi, Delhi, India:
The Mental Health Policymakers Forum supported by Mariwala Health Initiative, SNEHA Chennai, The Lancet Psychiatry and ETI organized a roundtable of 10e August 2022, at the Constitution Club, New Delhi, to address the need for a suicide prevention policy in India. The discussion also touched on the need to chart a course to address the rising suicide death rates among India’s youth.

India has the highest number of suicide deaths and two-thirds are concentrated among young people. Data from the World Health Organization shows that there is one death by suicide every 40 seconds. The number of people affected by suicide is enormous. For every death by suicide, there are approximately 60 people who are affected by the loss of a loved one and more than 20 who attempt suicide. In 2019, suicide was the third leading cause of death among women aged 15 to 29; and the fourth leading cause in men in this age group. There was a 10% increase in suicide deaths in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic and resulting lockdowns led to increased economic uncertainty and limited access to opportunity.

Addressing the mental health challenge requires a long-term, collaborative, multidisciplinary effort and a multi-stakeholder approach.

Dr Dalbir Singh, chair of the Mental Health Policymakers Forum, said peer pressure, expectations from family and friends lead to increased anxiety, depression and isolation among students. He supported the point of view concerning the introduction of an additional examination. “The decline in good health handicaps individuals, communities and societies and erodes the productivity and well-being of our nation. It imposes enormous social, emotional and economic burdens. There are many obstacles to effective suicide prevention, including inappropriate media reporting, conflicting interpretations of the existing legal framework, and the lack of a concerted strategy at government level.

Dr. Joan Marsh, editor of The Lancet Psychiatry, in her guest note, added: “The challenge of suicide deaths severely affects women, members of LGBTQIA+ populations, young people and people with disabilities. These groups often do not have the opportunity to express their opinions in public forums and do not have access to health facilities. It is appropriate that these voices be brought together and given a stage to express themselves.

“The issue of suicide prevention requires a multisectoral and multistakeholder effort, and in this regard, a national suicide prevention policy can serve as a guiding document. At the same time, a community and public health approach is essential to ensure suicide prevention in the country. Ensuring that services are available to all, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized populations, is the need of the hour. It is only when we understand the priorities of the affected groups that we can create a holistic and positive environment for suicide prevention in the country,” added Ms. Priti Sridhar, CEO of Mariwala Health Initiative.

Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar, Founder, SNEHA Chennai provided the background for the discussion by emphasizing the need for a national suicide prevention policy. She mentioned that “suicide is a major public health problem that must be prioritized by government at all levels. Deaths by suicide are common among young people in the country, a phenomenon that remains unique to India. Our work has shown the immediate need for a national suicide prevention policy that must be cleared for a better future.

After that, a roundtable between esteemed policy makers and experts in the field, moderated by Dr. Dalbir Singh, was organized to discuss the way forward and how the policy structure can be developed to support the creation of positive environment for suicide prevention in India.

The session concluded with a vote of thanks delivered by Mr. Bhawesh Jha, Director (Advocacy), Mariwala Health Initiative.

About Mariwala Health Initiative

The ICM provides strategic support to organizations and groups working within communities to provide better access to mental health services for all. By fostering an accessible, affirmative, rights-based, and user-centered mental health care environment, MHI seeks to make visible mental health narratives that center the structural determinants and leading voices of historically marginalized communities. For more information, visit mhi.org.in or write to [email protected]

About SNEHA Chennai

Founded by Dr. Lakshmi Vijayakumar in 1986, it is the first suicide prevention center in India. She has worked actively for the inclusion of suicide prevention in India’s national mental health policy, and she is currently working towards the decriminalization of attempted suicide. She is a member of the WHO Network on Suicide Research and Prevention and a Fellow of the International Academy for Suicide Research. She was vice-president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention for four years. She was the first Indian woman to be awarded the Honorary Fellowship of the Royal College of Psychiatrists, UK.

About the Mental Health Policymakers Forum

Launched in 2021, the Mental Health Policymakers Forum aims to bring together various stakeholders under one roof and draw the attention of policymakers from different political parties to develop an action plan and suggest recommendations for the formulation of a concerted strategy for the prevention of suicides. The Forum is guided by leading experts and practitioners in the field in creating the necessary evidence.

About The Lancet Psychiatry

The Lancet Psychiatry is a journal that works with academic partners to identify the most pressing issues in psychiatry – across science, medicine and global health – with the aim of providing recommendations that change health policy or improve the practice. For more information visit https://www.thelancet.com/journals/lanpsy/home

About ETI

ETI means an “arrival/approach”; creating safe and equitable access to health and safety. ETI follows a “leave no one behind” approach, with a focus on access to services for all, especially the most vulnerable and marginalized. ETI believes in evidence-based interventions to ensure the most effective solutions available are employed to improve program outcomes. To this end, ETI works closely with multiple stakeholders, including policy makers, media, communities, technical experts and well-known champions. The work is guided by in-house experts with over three decades of experience in government technical advice, strategy, development and academic research.
For more information, visit www.etiservices.org or write to [email protected]

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