Preventable deaths: Estimated 19-20 people die of suicide everyday in Nepal

Experts say many suicide attempts can be prevented if people with suicidal tendencies are identified in time.

Anshu Khanal

  • Read Time 4 min.

Kathmandu: A woman, originally from Sindhuli, came to Kathmandu for studies. Her marriage was arranged when she was 22 out of the pressure from her family. A few days after marriage, she had an argument with her husband. She was badly beaten. That was only the start. After two months of brutal violence and suffering, she returned home to her mother to seek support but in vain. “You need to bear with it. As a woman you need to endure some difficulties,” she was told. She returned to her husband’s house to suffer more violence at his hands. The situation became worse and worse until one day she decided to end her life. She attempted suicide but was saved by her mother in law who saw her just in time. Then she was rushed to the hospital, where with regular treatment and medical help, her condition gradually improved

She leads a normal life now. 

A few years ago, a man tried to jump from a building and end his life. Although his life was saved, this incident paralyzed one side of his body. After this attempt, he regularly went to a psychiatrist for medical aid. With proper medical treatment and regular medications, his mental condition improved. Now, he works to spread awareness about mental health.

These two are just the tip of the iceberg. We come across many such incidents where with regular medical help, people with suicidal thoughts or a history of suicide attempts are living a normal life. But the number of people who choose not to take any medical help or not to complete the entire course of treatment and choose to end their lives instead is also high. 

Annually, around seven million people lose their lives due to suicide worldwide. Every 40 seconds, one person dies of suicide and around 20-25 people attempt suicide in the world. Every suicide has direct effects on around 135 people.  According to the World Health Organization, 77 percent of suicide cases are prevalent in middle or low-income nations.

Although Nepal lacks any concrete system to track the number of suicide cases, an estimated 19-20 people die of suicide everyday in Nepal. According to a report prepared by the NCD and Mental Health Department, approximately 53,298 people have lost their lives due to suicide in the course of a decade. While the number of people that lost their lives was 3,174 in the year 2069/2070 BS, this number has doubled with 6,830 in the year 2078/2079 BS.

A few days back, the disappearance of singer Jerusha Rai came to light. Later, an investigation revealed that she had been searching for ‘ways to end life by drowning.’

In the past few years, the increasing use of the internet has brought negative impacts to people’s mental health, says Dr Kedar Marahatta. “The Internet has two sides to it. Internet shows ways to deal with negativity, prevent suicidal thoughts, and necessary helplines to reach out to but on the other hand, it also influences negative thoughts and reveals ways to attempt suicide,” said Dr Marahatta. “While we cannot directly point the blame to the internet, there is no doubt that it has adverse influences on mental health.”

Can suicide be prevented? “If you can accurately identify people with suicidal tendencies in time, many suicide attempts can be prevented,” says Dr Ananta Adhikari, Director of Patan Mental Hospital. According to him, more than 85 percent people with suicidal tendencies have some kind of mental health problems and they have a higher risks of suicide. Such people include patients of mental health problems, people with previous suicide attempts or a family history of suicide or suicide attempts, people with easier access to suicidal tools, people experiencing some form of mistreatment, violence or isolation and people with low tolerance to stress, alcohol or drug addicts.

According to Dr Ananta Adhikari, if anyone reaches out to you with their problems you need to take them seriously and provide any kind of assistance that you can. “Encourage and help them seek medical help,” he said.

According to him, negative thoughts, tendencies to escape from responsibilities, searching ways to attempt suicide, increased consumption of alcohol or other drugs and increased anger issues are the potential signs that people need medical assistance.

While technology is influencing mental health, mental health still remains a matter of stigma. In a country like Nepal, people do not tend to disclose their mental problems even with the closest ones and even if they gather the courage to speak up, they do not get appropriate responses. In a restricted environment like this, discussing one’s mental health becomes extremely difficult, seeking medical help even more so.

“By increasing accessibility of mental health services, introducing mental, emotional and social health education in schools from an early age, using the internet to debunk false allegations about suicide and mental health and using it to spread genuine information are some of the ways to prevent suicide”, says Dr Adhikari

Nepal still has a long way to go to safeguard the mental health of citizens. Initiatives, however, are being taken slowly and gradually. In recent days, the government has been providing “psychotropic drugs” for the treatment of eleven types of mental health problems. Similarly the government has also operated the hotline 1166 for suicide prevention. Anyone with suicidal thoughts or tendencies or anyone who knows such people can use this hotline for help.