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Times of India
30 April 2010
Mumbai, India

Health experts say it’s time to recognise that not only biological factors but even environmental factors play a role in triggering suicidal tendencies.

Given the spate of suicides in the city, experts underline the need to recognise emotional turbulence and distress in families, especially among children, in order to avoid such tragedies.

“If the head of family is depressed, then there is a possibility that the entire family, including the children, will be sad as well,” says Dr Yusuf Matcheswalla, psychiatrist from Masina Hospital and the JJ Group of Hospitals. “We have to realise that just as there are biological reasons for suicides, there are also environmental triggers.”

The city witnessed three incidents in the past 24 hours in which five persons, including three children, lost their lives. While a young physiotherapist based in Panvel killed his wife and child before committing suicide due to financial problems, a 14–year–old schoolboy in Andheri ended his life after he failed to clear his annual exams for the second time. In Mulund, the police is questioning a woman over the sudden death of her three–yearold daughter.

Some psychiatrists believe that the sudden spate of incidents of entire families ending their lives could also be triggered by herd instinct. “There is a lot being written about families, their distress and their suicides. This could be the trigger,” says psychiatrist Dr Harish Shetty. Dr Shubhangi Parkar, head of psychiatry at KEM Hospital, says, “There is the issue of suggestability when the reasons and matters are similar. When a vulnerable family reads about such suicides, there is no knowing how they would interpret it.”

Regarding the schoolboy’s suicide, Dr Parkar said “one has to keep a close watch on students; with exam results being declared, it is a difficult time for them”. “Any child who suddenly appears to lose his appetite or sleep or undergoes an emotional change could be vulnerable,” she added. Even Shetty said, “Families have to be sensitive to children who suddenly become excessively quiet, irritable, aloof or lose appetite. Refusal to take school exams is another sign.”

Signs to Look Out for
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