Explained: India’s new National Suicide Prevention Strategy

The strategy aims to reduce suicide mortality by 10 % in the country by 2030.(Pic: Canva)

By Pallavi Pratibha

On 21 November 2022, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare unveiled the National Suicide Prevention Strategy – aimed at suicide prevention as a public health priority.  It sets the stage for facilitation and coordination of efforts of all relevant sectors and stakeholders. The strategy document also enlists its goals and objectives, action framework, implementation framework and mechanism.

The strategy aims to reduce suicide mortality by 10 % in the country by 2030. 

What is the National Suicide Prevention Strategy?

The National Strategy for Suicide Prevention has been formulated in accordance with WHO’s South East Asia Regional strategy on suicide prevention. It is a multi-sectoral approach to addressing the social problem of suicide. It defines three time-frames: immediate, intermediate and long-term which aim to achieve outcomes in the next 1-3 years, 4-7 years and 8-10 years respectively. 

The strategy has three objectives. First, it aims to establish an effective study of suicide or suicide surveillance mechanisms within the next three years. Second, it aims to establish psychiatric Out Patient Departments (OPDs) that provide suicide prevention services, through the District Mental Health Programme in all the districts within the next five years. Third, it aims to integrate the mental well-being curriculum in all educational institutes within the next eight years.

Some major goals of the strategy are:

To reinforce leadership, partnerships and institutional capacity in the country.

To enhance the capacity of health services to provide suicide prevention services.

To develop community resilience and societal support for suicide prevention and reduce the stigma associated with suicidal behaviors.

To strengthen surveillance and evidence generation.

Who will be implementing the policy? 

Ministry of Health and Family Welfare (MoHFW) is the nodal body for ensuring the implementation of the strategy. As per the document, data will be managed by NIMHANS, the apex center of excellence, and the other centers of excellence in mental health recognized by MoHFW.  

Following a top-down approach, the policy enlists stakeholders at the state and district level that will be responsible for the all-around implementation of the policy, especially at the ground level. 

List of external collaborators includes various ministries, academia, media, civil society organizations, various ministries, local government and panchayati raj institutions, youth clubs like NKYS, NSS, etc.

Suicides in India: What do numbers tell?

Globally, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among youths aged 15 – 29 years, according to WHO’s report – “Suicide Worldwide in 2019: Global Health Estimates”. Correspondingly in India, suicide is the number one cause of death among youth aged 15 – 29 years as stated in the National Suicide Prevention Strategy. More than one lakh lives are lost to suicide every year in India, as per the NCRB Report 2021. On average, 450 lives are lost every day.

YearNumber of deaths by suicideSuicide rate (per lakh population)
20211,64,03312 %
20201,53,05211.3 %
20191,39,12310.4 %
Number of deaths by suicide in the past three years.

The year 2021 marks the highest rate of deaths from suicides since 1967.

As per the NCRB report 2021, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Madhya Pradesh, West Bengal, and Karnataka are the top five states in terms of suicide deaths and account for more than 50% of the total suicide deaths in India. UP had the lowest percentage of suicide deaths in the country at 3.6%.

Several suicides occur in cases of economic and social marginalization of groups and individuals as can be seen in the data. Of the total number of suicides, a stark 25.6 % of deaths by suicides are that of daily wage earners, followed by housewives (14.1 %). Unemployed individuals and students with less economic security accounted for 8.4% and 8% respectively.

What are some other initiatives for suicide prevention in the country?

There have been some other initiatives by the government towards mental health well-being in the past few years as well. There have been programs by the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare such as the National Mental Health Programme, National Palliative Care Program, Ayushman Bharat, School Health and Wellness Programme, and Nasha Mukti Abhiyaan amongst others.

Recently, in November 2022, the Meghalaya cabinet approved the Meghalaya Mental Health & Social Care Policy becoming the third state in the country to have a comprehensive mental health policy. Kerala and Karnataka are the other two states that preceded Meghalaya in formulating such a policy. 

This policy will ensure proper attention to mental health, especially for children, adolescents and youth, said Meghalaya CM Conrad Sangma. The aim of the policy is the promotion of overall mental health and well-being; and facilitation of appropriate access and care pathways for common and severe mental health concerns. The policy seeks to address the social determinants (non-medical factors that influence health outcomes) of mental health and ensure cultural security through collaborative engagement with the local communities of the state. 

Pallavi is a social science researcher and writer. She is currently an intern with TA.

The Analysis (TA) is a legal advocacy and research group working on the issues of environment, health, gender, law and human rights. Feel free to share your submissions with us at contact@theanalysis.org.in

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