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Times of India
17 February, 2010
By Kamini Mathai
Chennai, India

Anger Management
About a year ago, 28–year–old Shanthi left Chennai for Australia, hoping to start a new life. She was getting divorced and hoped the change would help. It didn’t. Every evening, after work, she would slump in her room depressed, alone, not knowing where to turn, who to talk to. Then, one day, she decided to take a lot of sleeping pills, hoping to end her life. Just as she was about to take them, she heard a song on television about how when one door closes, another opens and how it was up to you to take charge of your life. Shanthi took that as a sign and threw away the pills.

“It’s not as if she isn’t depressed anymore. She calls or emails when she is depressed,” says accountant Ashok Ramamoorthy, her friend. “She is going for counselling but she cannot listen to that song anymore as it brings back memories,” he adds.

The latest statistics for 2008 released by the National Crime Records Bureau shows that the suicide rate is rising in Tamil Nadu. The figure has risen from 12,381 in 2006 to 14,425 in 2008. TN’s suicide rate (number of suicides per lakh population) for 2008 was 21.7, twice the national rate of 10.8.

According to government statistics, every five minutes, someone commits suicide in India, making it the third major cause of death. On February 14, a 28–year–old content writer in Chennai hung herself in her bedroom reportedly after a quarrel with her husband. A month ago, a pregnant teenager committed suicide after an argument with her boyfriend. Last year two class eight students hung themselves after a quarrel.

Family therapist Brinda Jayaraman, who spearheads a support group of suicide survivors, says that although suicide is a spur–of–the–moment decision, there is a lot of pondering that precedes the actual act. “That’s when they talk about it or gather information about suicide,” says Jayaraman.

Counsellors say that while there is no explanation why someone commits suicide, factors can range from biological vulnerability to psychological attributes (depression, breakdown) and social circumstances. “These are distant factors but there is always a trigger, a situation specific to that person that prompts them to take their lives. But without anger no suicide takes place. Anger management and problem–solving skills can help prevent it,” says Dr Lakshmi Vijaykumar, SNEHA founder and member of the World Health Organisation International Network for Suicide Research.

Clinical psychologist Kalyani Kenneth says that she has seen that most adolescent suicides are because of academic pressures, while those of people in their 20s are because of marital adjustment issues. While there are counsellors, suicide helplines, therapists and psychiatrists, they never get to hear the first cry for help. “The person who commits suicide would have definitely said something like, ‘I want to die’ to a friend or family member. That is actually the first cry for help and must not be ignored,” says Dr Lakshmi.

The suicide note
According to Dr Lakshmi, the place where the suicide note is left can say a lot. “If it is left to be found then the person actually wants to change the circumstance and wants to be saved. If it is hidden, it is the last words,” she says.

Common methods
(Some names have been changed to protect identity)

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