Suicide by former Governor and ex-CBI Director, Ashwani Kumar at his residence in Shimla earlier this week has baffled the entire state, as much as it has shaken the mental health professionals in Himachal Pradesh, who find it an incident giving disturbing cues to common people.

“Suicide by the distinguished people like Ashwani Kumar two days back and by ex Chairman of HP Public Service Commission Major General (retd) Chander Mohan Sharma two years ago in Shimla are two very tragic incidents. However, it also remains a matter of psychological investigation when high profile people end their lives like this,” said Dr Sanjay Pathak, Chief Executive Officer of Himachal Pradesh Mental Health Authority.

Talking to The Statesman on the increasing number of suicides, Dr Pathak said most of the suicides are understandable. He said people resort to extreme steps when they are facing survival crisis, when the future seems bleak or when they are confronted with negative events of life. Besides when the basic needs are not fulfilled a person is likely to resort to the extreme step.

He said when esteem of the person is at stake, he may be compelled to take as harsh a step as suicide. Majority people don’t consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist, which can actually prevent this.

“But these two cases are unclear. There is a possibility of depression affecting the two and their unwillingness to seek psychological or psychiatric help,” he said.

Dr Pathak said suicides are increasing across the globe and as per the data available two persons commit suicide in Himachal Pradesh every day. “In Covid-19 lockdown the figure increased due to employment loss and anxiety over getting infected or infecting others,” he said. Globally, suicide is the second leading cause of death in the age group between 15-29 years.

He said females attempt more suicides, but because of the methods they use, the completed suicide rate is lesser in females.

Dr Pathak said depression, which may be due to gap in the expectation and achievement mainly owing to lack of realistic assessment, changing expectation (self –assessment of what it means to be an achiever or conflicting family or situation, lead to suicidal tendencies.

He said the coping skills as to how to deal with stress, depression and anxiety play an important role in taking a person out of depression.

He however cautioned against the social cues that smoking, alcohol or drugs, particularly in case of youngsters, are stress busters.

“Depression is a mental illness. One out four persons suffer from depression anytime during life for different reasons. But unfortunately, two-third of the people suffering from depression do not consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist either due to social stigma or unawareness,” Dr Pathak said.

He said the family, friends and colleagues at work place play a great role in handling the issue. “They are the first ones to notice the shift in personality of a person developing suicidal tendencies and should immediately intervene.”

Such persons often drop hints through a changed language, expression and negative state of mind etc.”

Dr Pathak elaborated that a suicidal person is not suicidal every time. “They have life instincts like any other normal human being, but they are overwhelmed for a moment and once that moment is handled, a person can be saved,” he said.

He expressed concern that when any person with high social stature commits suicide, it gives a strong suggestion to ordinary people, who are predisposed to suicide.

“People should seek psychiatric help and can call helplines 104 and 18005990019 in case of any such problem,” he said.