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Recognizing and Managing Suicidal Thoughts in Us and Those Around Us

Understanding and managing suicidal ideation is important the older we get

Bhavin Jankharia
6 min read
Recognizing and Managing Suicidal Thoughts in Us and Those Around Us

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The Book - Atmasvasth - A Guide to Ageing Healthfully
A 15-point guide to living long, healthy

The Detailed 15-Point Guide to Live Long, Healthy

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The detailed 15-points guide to live long, healthy

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Last week, after a young suicide death in the family, which has been devastating for the parents and everyone who knows them, I checked the suicide numbers in India.

In 2022, 1.7 lakh (170,000) people committed suicide in India [1], a number higher than road accident deaths, which at 1.5 lakhs (150,000) ranked 9th/10th in the list of top 10 deaths in India [1].

While suicide deaths in India are still the highest in the young, the 18-45 years age group accounting for more than half these deaths, they are gradually becoming a problem even in those over the age of 60.

The 2018 Lancet report on suicides in India, casts a scarier perspective on the situation [2]. It says that the number of suicide deaths is underestimated in official reports and in 2016, it pegged suicide deaths in India at around 230,000 (17/100,000 population) and given that suicide rates have been increasing year on year, even officially (10.2/100,000 NCRB in 2018 to 12.4/100,000 NCRB in 2022), this implies a rate increase to 20/100,000 in 2022 and for a population of 1.38 billion in 2022, it would mean 276,000 suicide deaths in 2022, about 100,000 more than the official NCRB numbers.  That is a lot of people. 

Since the number of people above the age of 60 years in India is just around 149 million (2020), which is less than 9% of the population, the rate of suicides per 100,000 actually works out much higher (from 24.5/100,000 men in 2016 in the 60-64 years age group to 55.0/100,000 in men in 2016 in the 80-84 years age group). And as the population ages, this problem is only going to worsen.

In short, suicide deaths are the 7th or 8th commonest cause of death in India, with the number of suicide deaths in people like us only expected to increase year on year. 

Not all suicide attempts are successful and clearly the issue starts with identifying suicidal tendencies in ourselves and those around us, to hopefully then prevent a suicide attempt and death. This is both, an individual issue, as well as a public health problem that needs to be addressed at multiple levels; by us, by those around us, healthcare organizations, authorities and the Govt.

So, what causes suicidal ideation? This is a list from the National Council of Aging.