A Note on Suicides


Dr. Ravi P. Bhatia – TRANSCEND Media Service

All people and all animals die on this planet Earth. Animals are killed either by other bigger and stronger animals or by people who kill them for food or sports.

People die through several means. They die through old age, or due to several forms of illness, or if they are in armed forces, through combat against an enemy force. A severe accident on a road may prove to be fatal for the person concerned. Occasionally an animal may be responsible for a person’s death — bitten by a rabid dog bite.  Sometimes a person who has done a heinous crime of murdering another person is charged for murder and after a lengthy trial is ordered to be hung till death, as punishment.

However, there is another route to death of a person. He/she may commit suicide and die. Why a person would choose this form of dying is a complex issue which I try to briefly discuss in this article.

One well known person — Adolf Hitler, Chancellor and dictator of Germany from 1933 to 1945  committed dastardly aggression against Jews in his country and killed millions of Jews by one manner or another, ultimately was captured. Rather than  face the inevitable death penalty for his crimes, Hitler shot himself to death. There are some other individuals in history who have chosen this path of killing themselves by    bullets when they realised that all other means of surviving had ended.

Suicide means killing oneself possibly due to several reasons. This has become a terrible scrounge   in the contemporary situation in many parts of the world. There are different methods and different reasons for taking this extreme step — social, cultural, economic, educational.

Students are resorting to this step because they feel that they have not done well on their examinations and are afraid of failure or getting low grades that will result in their inability to join a good course of study, or getting suitable employment. Sometimes, in management or technology courses, students feel they cannot cope up with the stress to do well. Often there is no counselling in the Institution which could prevent students from taking the extreme step.

Housewives may take this step because of conjugal incompatibilities or not having sufficient money to feed their families properly. A few years earlier, it was reported that a woman threw her two small children in a well and then jumped herself to death. This was obviously due to the extreme poverty of the woman. A soldier who wants to go on leave to meet his family, but is denied permission, may feel frustrated and resort to suicide.

In India, the largest number of suicides is reported in the southern state of Kerala. Other southern states — Tamil Nadu and Karnataka also report large number of suicides. Why this is so, has not yet  been fully clarified by research.

There are varied means of committing the extreme step. One is to jump from a tall building; another common means is to tie one’s neck and hang from the ceiling of the home of the person. Shooting oneself by bullets is another method. A strange case of an Indian woman was reported several years ago. The woman for religious reasons, stopped eating for more than a week. All means of persuading her to eat failed after which she was force fed by injection. Ultimately, she agreed to eat as a normal person does.

Many persons who commit suicide, do not talk about it to their family or their friends. If they did, many would be persuaded not to take the extreme step. In India and many other countries, religion helps a person to avoid the step. There are several people who talk about their financial or other problems like failure in agriculture, to a religious guru. They are persuaded not to take any extreme step, but to have faith in God who would come to their help and succour.

Emile Durkheim (1858 — 1917) is a well known French scholar and sociologist who worked on the problem of suicides occurring in many European countries and related them to factors such as religion, education, sex and age of victims. He found that there was less suicides among Catholics in comparison to Protestants. This was because Catholics tended to take the word of the Bible as gospel truth, not to be argued or interpreted as Protestants did which often led to confusion and a feeling of rootlessness. He also pointed out that number of suicides among Jews was less since they stayed together and doubts and tensions were more easily addressed among the Jewish community.

A similar situation occurs among Indian persons going to temple priests or local gurus. They commit fewer numbers of suicides. This is because they get a form of counselling from them and many of their doubts regarding family and religious issues are reduced if not completely erased. India also has the fabric of a joint family system that addresses various problems and   issues in a mature and organised manner leading to fewer cases of suicide.

Traditional joint family systems have declined in urban India leading to several issues becoming more problematic than they were earlier. While we cannot reverse social movements across the country, local institutions as well as the local governments can take positive steps to reduce the impact on economic, religious and social fronts and lead to greater harmony and well being of people.

Thus the problem of suicides can also be suitably addressed although not totally eliminated.


Dr Ravi P Bhatia is a member of the TRANSCEND Network for Peace Development Environment, an educationist, Gandhian scholar and peace researcher. Retired professor, Delhi University. His new book, A Garland of Ideas—Gandhian, Religious, Educational, Environmental was published recently in Delhi. ravipbhatia@gmail.com

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This article originally appeared on Transcend Media Service (TMS) on 17 Apr 2023.

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One Response to “A Note on Suicides”

  1. The topic is an important one and merits continuing attention. I am disappointed at the framing offered. Indeed the incidence of suicide is tragic. Focusing on the need for counselling oversimplifies the matter in my view — given the quality of such counselling, its limited availbility and the limited capacity of counsellors to take responsibility for their recommendations in practice. The issue avoided by the note is the array of vested interested opposed to suicide (and therefore biased) due to their potential loss of income or influence, including medical professionals, insurers, hospices, and religious authorities. The note makes not mention of euthanasia as a human right from which individuals might well benefit — given the right to kill so widely exercised and approved by authorities (notably under just war theory). The arguments against suicide may well be experienced as weak by those so inclined — despite the enthusiasm of those who present them.