Aspiring India may turn Despairing India- Dr. Samir Parekh

Suicide should be a national health policy concern.

Aspiring India may turn Despairing India- Dr. Samir Parekh


In the environment unleashed by new incumbent, hope is floating in the air. Lest it starts sinking, efforts must be made at the earliest to harness abundant positive energy that has young and youthful India swamped in its enticing fold. In the midst of ominous figures of suicides emerging around world suicide day (10th September), Dr. Samir Parikh, an eminent psychiatrist,warns to be cautious about hope of late let loose, keeping in mind aspiring India may turn into despairing India too if not handled wholesomely. He says it must be fully understood that hope has a limited shelf life.

Dr. Parikh, Chief of the Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences in Fortis Group of hospitals, in his extensive interview to MediToAll Editor- in – Chief, Dhananjay, did his best to breach the elusive veil that might hide the lurking suicidal tendency.

Look Doctor, he is sun shine of sorts, flush with smile. Could there still be a streak of suicidal tendency sewed into his being?

Yes, sometimes smile could be sham of a happiness too. It could be a camouflage to hide deep sadness.  I understand you have referred to that famous ghazal- tum jo itna muskura rahe ho, kya gham hai jisko chipa rahe ho (hey, you are laughing too many, what sadness you are trying to camouflage?). This couplet is pregnant with a poignant psychological truth.Robin Williams, seemingly a metaphor for humor, killed himself not long ago. He starkly darkly reminded us there could be turmoil underneath placid facade. It was beyond imagination that the man who had millions in splits by his humoring talent will so capitulate to depression.

Abundance of confidence in a person does not always mean that he will never give way. Sustainable confidence is hard to come by. Remember how famed American writer Ernest Hemingway gushed with confidence- ‘Man can be destroyed but cannot be defeated’. Could he be stuff for committing suicide? But he did commit suicide!

Is depression proving a silent killer like many other diseases?

Yes, in a way, if not discerned in the nick of the time. It is very much a preventable cause of suicide. We cannot name it directly as killer. But if depression is left to fester, not tackled in time, the person may reach at his tether end where suicide may seem to be the only source for mitigating his sadness beyond all bearing. In fact, the thinking that depression will pass of itself is a ‘killer thinking’. Depression needs intervention in time for sure.

Depression is not a disease that will strike only in your neighborhood. No matter how much successful or monetarily well off a person may be, depression is an in thing for him too. It also transcends a good filial relationship milieu. It strikes one and all but mostly it catches up with a person firstly in between ages 24 to 44, the prime of his life. One in 4 women and one in 10 men will confront depression at some point in their lives. In a decade, depression would become the second biggest disease stalking humanity.

India’s demographic dividend and aspirational youth reserve is being flaunted as a unique advantage globally. Do you have any word of counsel regarding handling them?

Yes, we are at a great advantage amongst emerging nations of the world. Our demographic dividend is something to be bullish about but we must stand guard to the possibility that the same dividend may turn demoniac too if left to go haywire. Aspiration may degenerate into despair too. The positive energy that has been triggered with good intent should be taken to its logical end of fulfillment. This positive energy will have to be harnessed; else it will spew negative self energy. Youth today in India are very high on motivation and that motivation to sustain; he must meet a phase of certain achievement. Once they start doubting themselves, it would become difficult to stem the slide towards depth of despair. So along with structural reforms of economy, suicide should also be a national health policy concern. Hope may turn calamitous too and leave behind a trail of suicides.

Youth in India are today a waxing and waning lot. And therein lay the rub. When surged aspiration dips, it leaves in its trail a trauma that may kill too. The wakeup call given by WHO has to be pored over and attendant mitigation efforts are urgently called for. According to report ‘Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative’ India had the highest number of suicides in the world in 2012- 2,58,o75 people embraced death.

How to decipher Depression? Is it easy to do?

Yes, it is preventable cause of death, it is curable too. There are perceptible signs of depression. Only everyone should be aware of the fact depression is a fact of life for everyone.  The signs include sad mood, constant lethargy, waning interest, being on short fuse, sleep pattern going awry, disturbed appetite, negative thoughts like low self-confidence, feeling worthlessness, helplessness and hopelessness. Psychiatric help like needful medication and counselling support are very essential to stem these negative feelings and to ensure that he or she does not end up harming himself/herself.

Can faith healing prove efficacious?

Faith and spirituality are becoming integral part of medicine. Faith healing has been found efficacious in case of depressive bouts but it should not be in isolation of medical care. Medical and psychiatric counselling help intervention is must.

Do you think there needs to be an attitudinal change regarding suicide?

My team recently conducted a survey regarding attitude of the public towards those who have attempted or committed suicide. Three thousand adults pertaining to Delhi-NCR were randomly selected and asked 22 questions to understand the various variables that are associated with what we call suicide. Majority of the respondents, 89 per cent to be precise, believed that people usually get ideas for suicide from the media. At the same time, 71 per cent respondents said that the tendency to attempt suicide varies from family to family, thus corroborating the genetic angle to suicide.

The most shocking finding of the survey was that even today most people blame the victim, and look at it as it an inherent weakness or impulse or an act of seeking attention – not as a symptom of someone caught in a crisis, of someone who needs help and counselling to cope. Also, people believe a person having suicidal tendency cannot be helped to avert the precipitous event. The fact is that suicide is very much preventable. There is certainly a need for much attitudinal change regarding suicide and depression that triggers the event.


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