The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Men cross women in suicide count
- Socio-economic change and the inability to deal with it fuel rise in male deaths

Radheshyam Saha, 52-year-old resident of Baishnab Seth First Lane, hanged himself from the ceiling of his room. Jorabagan police said Saha, a dealer in corrugated tin sheets, was facing financial trouble…

Radheshyam is one of more than 50 men who have killed themselves so far this year. With the going getting tough, those who can’t cope are increasingly turning to the final exit door — death. But dealing with daily stress is getting to men more than women. If two years ago, the number of women committing suicide outdid men, then last year, 47 more men than women took their own lives in this city (see box). The image of the fairer sex being the weaker one is being shattered by suicide statistics.

“Men still have to feed their families, but there are fewer jobs available and you have to fight hard to keep it if you’ve got one. In addition, women are learning to claim their due rights from society, and the men can’t deal with that,” feels Subir Ganguly, former president of the Indian Medical Association. Men are still pressured to perform better than women, in the classroom or the boardroom, to support old parents or young children, while “also seeing their status/importance decreasing”.

Mumbai-based homoeopath Mukesh Batra, who runs 15 clinics around the country dealing with, among other things, stress and anxiety, feels it’s just a case of women handling it better. “Women have always been better at dealing with stress. Behind every successful man is usually a very strong woman. Men tend to crumble under pressure.”

Reasons are many, but the root cause for the ‘crumble’ is socio-economic change and the inability to deal with it. The pressure is on and the rat race would need a Schumi to shine. Competition is the name of the game, with no space or sympathy for those lagging behind. “Marital discord, work pressure, failed love affairs, family problems are the most common reasons for people committing suicide… The victims often have no one to turn to. In the case of men, it’s even harder,” says deputy commissioner (detective department) Soumen Mitra.

“Because, unlike under the joint-family system, the men don’t have the authority any more, neither do they have the elders to turn to for help and advice. Expectation from everyone is high, but there aren’t enough opportunities,” he adds.

A moment of madness is all it finally takes. But what lies beneath is usually more deep-rooted, explains Vijayan Pavamani, director of Calcutta Samaritans, an NGO that runs a helpline and a counselling centre for crisis intervention.

There are two types of suicide cases, endogenous (caused due to a chemical imbalance in the body and is, some times, inherited) and exogenous (an immediate cause triggers it off).

Demand and supply, lifestyle diseases, the burnt-out phenomenon and performance pressure are the technical terms used by doctors to explain the situation. Hypertension, gastric ulcer, diabetes and heart problems are all manifestations of mental turmoil, says Ganguly.

“These diseases are rising at an alarming rate. The first symptoms are normally irritability, behavioural changes and addictions. Stress is also partially responsible for the rising number of cancer cases.”

Psychiatrist Ranadip Ghosh Ray sums up: “The demand to be the best is not always possible to deliver on. This starts off in school and continues all through life. The pressure piles up. Thus, the steadily increasing suicide rate.”

The remedy, say doctors, is not always — or just — medication. The prescription, instead of containing long lists of anti-depressants, would include advice on music therapy, yoga, meditation and massages for mind relaxation, a change of lifestyle and diet, and, of course, talking to family or friends.

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