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Shocking & Unfortunate

Shocking & Unfortunate

On 28 May, the Patna High Court  took suo motu cognisance of the death of a 35-year-old woman who was reportedly travelling in the Shramik Special train from Surat (Gujarat) to Katihar in Bihar. The incident generated a lot of debates after videos of her infant child trying to wake up the deceased woman at Muzaffarpur railway station had gone viral over the electronic and social media. 

The Muzaffarpur incident may just be a tip of the ice-berg but every passing day brings to fore the hardships that migrants seem to be facing across states while undertaking journeys for thousands of kilometres to reach home, like  travelling in cement mixers, crossing the Yamuna on tyre tubes  etc.

With cases of COVID-19 on the increase, these are challenging times. That tempers, too seem to rise with the ongoing peak summer is a cause for serious concern. Why are petty arguments apparently turning violent?

Take the case of 35-year-old e-rickshaw driver, Jagdesh who died in Delhi recently after he was allegedly slapped by his landlord over the use of a 100 watt bulb. Jagdesh paid a monthly rent of Rs 5000 which included the electricity bill. However, the owner, a financially distressed blacksmith who hadn’t been earning anything during the lockdown wanted to keep the electricity bills low to save money. When he found that his tenant was using a 100 watt bulb, he removed it and replaced it with an energy saving bulb. This led to heated arguments and the landlord slapped the tenant. The latter lost balance and his head hit against the wooden armrest of a sofa resulting in head injuries that turned fatal.

In Uttar Pradesh’s Sant Kabir Nagar, an angered 35-year-old divorcee smashed the heads of his minor daughters aged 5 and 2 respectively with a brick as they were making a lot of noise while playing inside the house.

True, recessions do leave long trails of misery and India is no exception.

Yes, when it comes to vulnerable individuals, the effects are devastating.

A latest study has found that during the period March 19 to May 2, there has been about 300 “non-coronavirus deaths” in India. Notably, 80 people killed themselves due to loneliness and fear of being tested positive for the virus. While about 45 deaths were associated with withdrawal symptoms, another 36 attributed to financial distress and nearly 51 migrants died in accidents on their way back home.

That  many people in the country seemingly ending their lives prematurely in wake of the COVID-19 pandemic is shocking and unfortunate.

A mentally disturbed 28-year-old nurse working in Ahmedabad civil hospital allegedly committed suicide last week by jumping off the 10th floor flat of her parents. A probe is on to find out why she took the extreme step.

25-year-old t elevision actor Preksha Mehta committed suicide at her residence in Indore by hanging herself from the ceiling fan. Work related stress is attributed for her death but the suicide note she left behind did not reveal the reason behind her decision to end her life.

A 26-year-old studying in Ranchi, killed herself because she was unable to go back to her parents' home during COVID-19 lockdown.

Although a 25-year-old, pursuing a master’s programme in Ireland, managed to rush back home, just before international flights shut down, she hung herself at her family home in Mumbai due to depression and loneliness.

Andhra Pradesh’s Chittoor, a 56-year-old hung himself near his mother’s grave as he thought he was COVID-19 positive and that he would infect his three children and wife.

It needs to be understood that constantly being at home can bring about depression for such that people who have less control over their home space. Especially for those living in dysfunctional families and in abusive relationships the trauma can adversely impact them emotionally and mentally. When thoughts turn depressive, it can lead to poor sleep quality and a host of other mental issues. Increased anxiety during the day can lead to more negative content in dreams and notably, collective trauma during situations like the COVID-19 pandemic, can make those vulnerable to take extreme steps.

A UK study has shown that the first few weeks of lockdown witnessed a peak in rates of anxiety and depression. This reduced over time as people adjusted to the lockdown conditions. Notably amongst those who struggled most who were struggling most with their mental well-being were those who were younger, had children in the home, lost income because of the outbreak or had pre-existing health conditions.

Suicide, a growing problem, is undoubtedly devastating. Research warns that suicide mostly occurs when mental health conditions and stress come together to make someone feel a sense of hopelessness.  It is estimated that 90 percent of people who die from suicide have a diagnosable mental health condition - most commonly depression - at the time of their death. According to the World Health Organisation, each suicide in a population is accompanied by more than 20 suicide attempts. Hence the number of mentally distressed people who might seek help from mental health services can be expected to increase in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres had underscored the need for all countries to urgently address mental health care needs by including it as part of policy response to the pandemic. This merits consideration.

Our national mental health survey last released in 2016 reveals that people from lowest income groups were the most vulnerable when it comes to mental disorders. Such people surely need societal help.

So, is there a take-home message?

Yes, there are effective prevention interventions that can ultimately help people with suicidal tendencies to feel more hopeful about their lives.

Alongside the COVID-19, what a lot of people need is counselling.

(Published on 1th June 2020, Volume XXXII, Issue 23)