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Suicide surge: The Silent Youth Crisis in Kashmir

Experts warn of copycat effect, societal disconnect, digital overload, parenting shifts
01:34 AM May 01, 2024 IST | Syed Rizwan Geelani
suicide surge  the silent youth crisis in kashmir

Srinagar, Apr 30: Over the past few months, a disturbing trend has gripped Kashmir as the youth grapple with rising levels of intolerance, leading to a surge in suicide cases that have sent shockwaves through society.


The alarming increase in these tragic incidents has sparked widespread concern and calls for urgent action to address the underlying issues.


Amid the rising cases of suicides by youth, the experts attribute it to the media hype given to the suicide incidents saying that it gives rise to “copycat” suicides.


Talking to Greater Kashmir, Prof Arshad Hussain of the Department of Psychiatry, Government Medical College (GMC), Srinagar, said that the factors contributing to suicide and its prevention were complex and not fully understood.


“But there is increasing evidence that the media can play a significant role in either enhancing or weakening suicide prevention efforts,” he said.



Dr Hussain said that media reports about suicide might minimise the risk of imitative (copycat) suicide or increase the risk.


“The media may provide useful educational information about suicide or may spread misinformation about it,” he said.

Dr Hussain said there was undoubtedly a huge increase in impulsivity-related illnesses.

“But these extreme steps taken by youth are driven by the way suicides are reported in media. It all started three years ago. Earlier, hanging was almost an unknown phenomenon for us,” he said.

Dr Hussain said whenever any suicide happens, the way it gets reported leads to copycat suicides.

“Earlier, we had written to the J&K Information Department about it as 70 percent of cases are preventable if WHO guidelines or national guidelines are followed while reporting,” he said.

Dr Hussain said during the previous years, reporting about suicides was being regulated as the major source of information was only newspapers.

“However, these days it is not reported in a better way. A few years ago, a girl in Sopore jumped into the river and cameras were focused there for 15 days,” he said.

Dr Husain said that the complexity of factors contributing to suicides calls for nuanced reporting, steering clear of oversimplification.

“These days the suicides happening are a classical copycat phenomenon,” he said.

Dr Hussain said that the repeated coverage and high-profile stories were most strongly associated with copycat behaviour.

“The effect of a report about a suicide on subsequent suicides is greater when the person described in the story is a celebrity and is held in high regard by the reader or viewer,” he said.

Dr Hussain said that the media reports about suicides written following media guidelines show strong potential to help prevent suicide and do not usually trigger further suicides.

HoD Psychiatric Department GMC Srinagar, Prof Muhammad Maqbool Dar also told Greater Kashmir that one of the major factors was copycat suicides in which youth commit suicides once the media gives hype to any suicide incident.

“Another factor is that children have become intolerant as there is a lot of academic pressure on them. Earlier, children would play outside with friends and relatives but the scenario is altogether different as the kids remain aloof and glued to social media,” he said.

Prof Dar said putting kids in a rat race had resulted in intolerance among them as parents want the kids to behave and perform as per their will, not as per the interest of the children.

“These days parenting has changed completely and parents do not spend time with kids. Parental role has reduced,” he said.

A counsellor working at a Srinagar school said that they were approached by kids between the age group of 4 to 18 years who complained of different kinds of mental health issues.

“Five and six-year-old children complain of overprotective parents for which we are forced to counsel the parents instead of children,” the counsellor said.

As per the counsellor, as the children start growing up, they become victims of body shaming as they are compared with their siblings.

“If any sibling is slow or he or she is fat, the parents ridicule them and draw comparisons with their siblings, creating jealousy among kids. Earlier there was no jealousy factor among siblings but now it is inborn among the kids,” the counsellor said.

Talking to Greater Kashmir, a sociologist posted at IMPA, Khurshid-ul-Islam said that the societal shifts had led to disconnect within families.

“Unfortunately these incidents are happening because of the changing scenario in the world, especially concerning electronic gadgets, fast society, and the availability of media. The familial control which used to be there like sitting with family, socialising with family, meeting relatives and friends has diminished now,” he said.

Khurshid said that from a sociologist’s point of view, all these things were missing in every family and aloofness had become the order of the day.

“Earlier, all family members would have one ideology but now the scenario is different as each member has his viewpoint. Earlier, we would realise the need for our family members but now we believe in friends we get to know on social media, who are not our friends,” he said.

Khurshid said that people had started living in their fantasies with the growing social media content.

“On social media, people are not able to judge the good and the bad content. Earlier, kids would remain attached to families and there was a proper check and balance on kids. Now kids are lost in the virtual world and are living in their way,” he said.

Khurshid attributed the rising intolerance to the uncertainty saying that educated youth in families were under pressure and uncertain about their future.

“These factors give rise to intolerance,” he said.

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