COVID-19 and Mental Health

64 thousand commit suicide in 15 years, alarming rates during lockdown

KATHMANDU: 

  • A man admitted to the COVID Temporary Hospital in Bankatta, Sainamina Municipality-1 of Rupandehi committed suicide by hanging himself in the bathroom on 1st May. The 40-year-old man from Ranibagiya of Sainamina was found dead at 4 in the morning.
    He was admitted to the hospital on 29th April after he tested positive for COVID. His health was normal.
    Deepak Pandey, a health worker at the hospital, said, “The health condition was normal, there were no problems or complaints. When he was found to have committed suicide, it was found that he was diagnosed with a mental health problem.
    Pandey informed that he was admitted to the hospital at the request of his family even though his health was not too bad.
  • Govinda Shah, 35, of Inarbaruwa, Madi Municipality-3, Chitwan, committed suicide by hanging himself on 5th May last year. He had returned home a week earlier after attending a wedding in Bihar, India, and was under home quarantine.
    His swab was tested and the report was positive after he was diagnosed with frequent diarrhea and health problems. After testing positive for coronavirus, the young man committed suicide by hanging himself. 
    According to the Area Police Office, Madi, the cause of the suicide has not been identified yet. According to Office Chief Jhalak Sharma, his file has been sent to the District Police Office, Chitwan for further investigation as no information on the cause could be obtained from the preliminary investigation. 
  • A young woman in the quarantine of Bethanchowk village of Kavre committed suicide during lockdown last year. A 21-year-old girl had committed suicide in the same quarantine on Friday.
    She came to Nepal on 1st August and was in quarantine. The reason why she committed suicide is not yet clear.
  • A senior citizen living in the quarantine of Digam of Chhatrakot Gaonpalika-4 of Gulmi also committed suicide last year. Chandra Bahadur Pariyar, 56, who was in the quarantine of the local school, Adarsh ​​Secondary School, had committed suicide on 30th May last year.
    A few days ago, he was quarantined by the village municipality after coming from India. He went to the toilet in the evening and was found dead. The reason for his suicide has not been found yet. 

19% increase during lockdown 

The events above are just representatives. The trend of suicide in Nepal is still worrying as it has become even more vicious after the COVID pandemic and the lockdown. 

The government had announced a lockdown on 24th March 2020 for the prevention of the spread of COVID-19. The lockdown was strictly enforced for four months, till July. Many citizens faced problems due to the lockdown. The working class was especially hit hard. 

According to the Nepal Police, 2,707 people committed suicide in the same period. Compared to four months of the previous year, the number of suicides during the lockdown increased by 19%. In the previous fiscal year 2075/07, 2,267 people had committed suicide in April, May, June, and July. The number of suicides increased by 60% as compared to the previous June/July. 600 people had committed suicide in the previous June/July, while 964 people have committed suicide in the last July.

Women, children, and senior citizens

The Directorate of Women, Children, and Senior Citizens of Nepal Police had conducted a study on the number of suicides in the month of the first lockdown and one month before the lockdown. According to the study report, the suicide rate among women, children, and senior citizens has also increased.

Before the lockdown was announced, 414 women, children, and senior citizens had committed suicide in February/March (Falgun) last year. According to the Directorate, 487 people committed suicide in the month of March/April (Chaitra) of that year. According to the Director of the directorate, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Uma Shankar Panjiyar, the number of suicides increased by 17% in just one month. This also confirms the increase in the number of women, children, and senior citizens committing suicide in the lockdown, SSP Panjiyar told Nepal Press.

The directorate has also analyzed the incidents of suicide for four months from 24th March to 25th July of last year. During this period, 1,343 women, children, and senior citizens committed suicide. According to the directorate, the highest number of suicides was in Province 1 during the period with 19% or 264 suicides. In Province 2, 231 people have committed suicide.

As many as 5,081 people have committed suicide in the current fiscal year. 4,038 people have done so by hanging themselves and 957 people have done it through self-poisoning. 

64,000 lost their lives in 15 years

Analyzing the statistics of the last 15 years, it is found that the number of suicides in Nepal is alarming. According to the Nepal Police, more than 64,000 people have committed suicide during this period.

From the fiscal year 2063/06 to the mid-April of the current fiscal year 2077/07, 64,417 people have committed suicide. It has been found that more than 4,000 people commit suicide every year. Statistics show that more than 350 people commit suicide monthly and more than 10 people commit suicide daily.

According to the report, the number of suicides is increasing from 3% to 13% every year, says Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Basanta Bahadur Kunwar, who is also the Spokesperson of Nepal Police. According to him, 6,249 people have committed suicide in the last fiscal year 2076/07, the highest in a period of 15 years. The situation is similar this year. Spokesperson Kunwar said that 5,081 people have committed suicide with 3 months of the year still remaining. 

Highest in Province 1

Of the seven provinces in the country, the highest number of suicides has been reported in Province 1. In the three-year period from the last fiscal year 2076/07 to the current fiscal year 2077/07, 16,771 people have committed suicide across the country. 

The highest number of suicides was recorded in Province 1 at 21% or 3,623, followed by Lumbini at 19% or 3,327.

The Collective Campaign for Peace (COCAP) has also been conducting research on various incidents including suicide in partnership with the Nepal Police. Roshana Khadka, Chairperson of COCAP, told Nepal Press that the marginalized community was affected most by the suicide incidents. She said that Dalits, poor, minorities, Madhesis, and women were more affected by the suicide incidents. She is of the view that the government has not emphasized preventing suicide despite their increasing number. 

KOCAP has been compiling a report and making it public at https://nepalmonitor.org. COCAP has also developed a separate dashboard for COVID-19, where more information about the suicides can be obtained. 

“Even though suicide is a criminal incident, the media does not seem to give much priority to it,” she said. It is still considered a common problem. As it is a big problem not only in Nepal but all over the world, it should not be considered a taboo and should be openly discussed and debated.”

Psychologist Karuna Kunwar denies that the number of suicides is on the rise only during the lockdown. “It only seems that the number is rising during the lockdown as counting is being done at this time,” she said. “Looking at the statistics of the past few years, the number of suicides is increasing regularly every year.”

She said that there was still a lack of knowledge that mental health problems should be treated in time, which is why suicide numbers have not decreased. According to psychologist Kunwar, the lack of open discussion and debate on suicide is one of the reasons behind the increase. “Even now, if any member of the family commits suicide, other members of the family will not talk about it openly,” she said. “Suicide is also increasing due to this taboo.” 

She says the government is not serious about mental health issues. She said that not even 0.5% of the budget allocated in the health sector per year is not allocated in the field of mental health. “Every year, we have to conduct campaigns against suicide,” she said. “Mental health problems can happen to anyone, and this should be explained to everyone.” 

Psychologist Kunwar says that even though the causes of suicide seem to be poverty, stress, and family quarrels, the main cause is psychosocial problems. According to her, in some cases, long-term sexual abuse and violence are also becoming a major cause of suicide. “Suicide for all reasons can be prevented if we are able to cope with our problems and take the initiative to address mental health problems,” she said. 

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