Family Suicides

family suicideSuicides take away more human lives than terrorism in India. It is the next killer to road accidents. Emile Durkheim the eminent French sociologist had typified sucides centuries back. IN the instant world of today suicides are triggered because of the lack of primary relationships. Most of the suiciders dependent on drugs or electronic gadgets. Apart from the addiction and frustration at the end of  the day the suiciders also end their lives due to debt and family tensions.

Nandita Sengupta writes in The Times of  India (7 October 2009)


Last week Arvind Pathak and wife Mamta decided death was the only solution to their growing financial difficulties. The 38-year-old MBA


poisoned his 11-year-old daughter, then his wife. He consumed the poison himself and raced out of his house, screaming about what they had just done. Pathak is the latest in a growing list of couples who conclude that life can never solve their myriad problems.

When families decide to die together, it’s time to be worried. Psychiatrists and sociologists say the breakdown of community structures, growing aspirations and the lack of institutional support mechanisms are primarily responsible for pushing middle-class families into committing suicide, children passive part of such pacts.

“You won’t find family suicides among the poor or the super-rich, only among the middle-class. The super-rich have hereditary fortune to cushion the fall, while villages still have a community insurance, says sociologist Yogendra Singh.

Even among farmers, it’s the middle-class ones who commit suicide, says Singh. The new entrants to the high-income bracket, without back-up fortune can’t cope. The absence of any institutionalised support group aggravates matters. “Something must substitute the breakdown of community support. Often in the West, the Church plays a role,” says Singh.

In cities, it’s a lonely world. Pathak wasn’t on talking terms with his brother, had borrowed from his father. His wife had lost her teaching job and they had also borrowed money to build a house. He simply succumbed to the pressures.

Not knowing who to turn to got to the Thevers in Mumbai. Babu Thever, a 37-year-old Tamil film distributor, killed his children and wife along with himself in August last year. Thever suffered from an incurable disease. The deaths shocked relatives and friends who never thought Thever had been stressed.
In October last year, US-based MBA 45-year-old Karthik Rajaram killed his mother-in-law, his wife and three sons and then killed himself in his upscale home near Los Angeles, California. In his letters, he narrated his financial difficulties that resulted in “an unfortunate, downward spiral”.

In urban India, communication is at an all-time low, million-loads of SMSes notwithstanding. What is needed is inter-dependence within families, says psychiatrist Dr Avdesh Sharma. “Electronic communication is not the answer. With families barely meeting, close ones miss any alarming signals,” says Sharma.
The decision to commit suicide is not taken overnight. “Group suicide is not an overnight decision. It takes time to think of dying. This is where neighbourhood, family, friends fail to identify the flag signs, there from weeks ahead,” says psychiatrist Jitendra Nagpal.

The real trouble begins when a wife identifies with the situation’s helplessness. There’s a perceived sense of martyrdom, that without the husband, the family’s lives will be even more traumatic. “Today’s alienated societies, unaware neighbourhoods must realise that family suicide pacts are a society’s problem,” he says. It’s the same lack of sensitivity that blinds society to an injured man on the road.


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