The suicide count among students has more than doubled in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period last year. It is mostly teenaged girls who are ending their lives, and the primary cause remains conflict with parents.
Twenty-seven youths, most of them from Calcutta and its adjoining districts, committed suicide between January 2006 and March 2006. Eleven in the same age-group had ended their lives between January and March 2005.
'The sudden rise in youth suicide is alarming. The matter needs immediate attention. We must monitor the situation and check the rise in psychological aberration among children,' stressed psychologist Sramana Dasgupta, who oversaw the survey by the Society for Nature Education and Health (SNEH).
One of the objectives of the survey by the NGO supported by the ministry of human resource development was to provide suggestions to the ministry regarding restructuring of the school curriculum to reduce pressure on students.
The sex ratio of suicides ' 71 girls:29 boys ' has shaken some sociologists, who have termed it 'most dangerous'.
'The high suicide rate among young women is an indication that parents are still imposing more restrictions on girls than on boys. They are internalising their frustration, arising not just out of academic pressure but also from love affairs, abuse, eve-teasing and even molestation. We need to educate the parents,' asserted Swapan Bhattacharya, a senior teacher of Calcutta University's sociology department.
The study further found city youths to be more prone to self-destructive behaviour after failing to cope with academic or parental pressure, compared with their counterparts in the districts. While 29 young people in Calcutta committed suicide in 2005, the figure for the rest of the state for the same period was 27.
The survey has shown that the suicide count is highest among 15 to 19-year-olds. 'It is a matter of concern that the biggest risk group comprises adolescents,' added Dasgupta.
The trend has prompted SNEH, which has been working on adolescent problems since the mid-1990s, to prepare a report advocating parenting training modules in schools. The report will be submitted to the ministry.
Psychologist Sheena Mishra Ghosh, who took part in the survey, said: 'The most common cause of adolescent suicide is problem with parents.'
And most such problems revolve around academic pressure, concluded an analysis of the case histories obtained from police and other government sources. Discord with parents over love affairs and watching TV for long hours were some of the other factors that drove youths to despair.
'Several immediate causes were not as trivial as they appeared. There were underlying causes like extreme stress and a difference of opinion,' felt participating psychologist Sudipta Basu.