Why Does a Quaint City in India Have the World’s Highest Suicide Charge?

Colourful resorts and 18th century church buildings dot the shoreline of Puducherry, the small metropolis on India’s southeast coast previously generally known as Pondicherry. Relics of the city’s French colonial historical past are nonetheless seen within the cobblestone streets and the modern white constructions, just like the Aayi Mandapam, constructed through the period of Napoleon III. Puducherry — which is residence to extra girls than males, a rarity in a rustic the place feminine infanticide has been traditionally widespread — can be a well-liked trip spot. In 2017, a file 1.6 million vacationer visits have been recorded.

However this stunning seashore city is hiding a darkish secret. In keeping with the World Well being Group:

Puducherry has the very best suicide charge in India — 4 occasions the nationwide common. In truth, it’s the very best charge on the planet, with 44 out of each 100,000 folks taking their lives.  

And that quantity is on the rise right here — in 2014, the speed was 40.4 per 100,000 folks. India’s total suicide charge is much decrease at 16.5 per 100,000 folks. In the meantime, nations with the very best charges — and charges notably decrease than Puducherry’s — are Guyana, with 30.2 per 100,000 folks; Lesotho with 28.9; Russia, Lithuania and Suriname. 

So why are so many individuals on this quaint metropolis killing themselves? In police data, the official causes given are sometimes broad and ambiguous: household issues, sickness, examination stress. However those that’ve studied the issue see far more than that. Puducherry is definitely two cities, nonetheless marred by its historical past of French colonial rule. The “White city,” the place the French colonizers as soon as lived, is residence to shiny, beachfront vacationer spots, whereas the remainder of the town, the place the colonized as soon as resided, suffers from excessive unemployment charges and lacks entry to formal training and well being care.


Practically three-quarters of people that undergo from psychological well being points in Puducherry are between the ages of 15 and 34. “Excessive charges of unemployment don’t marry with the aspirations of the burgeoning youth inhabitants,” says Vikas Menon, a professor at Jawaharlal Institute of Postgraduate Medical Training and Analysis (JIPMER) in Puducherry who has studied suicide charges within the city. Households are likely to put quite a lot of strain on children to do nicely in class, however succeeding academically can really feel futile when there are nonetheless no job prospects. On the flip facet, failing exams and getting poor grades is a deep supply of disgrace for many college students in Puducherry. Shortly after being grounded for failing her highschool board exams in 2016, a 16-year-old named Ratna killed herself, in accordance with an area publication, The Hindu. Her aunt and uncle stated they left the home for a quick go to to their textile store, and when they returned Ratna had hanged herself.

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What’s extra, alcohol is extraordinarily low-cost and straightforward to come back by in Puducherry. Younger folks annoyed by college or work can simply drown their sorrows in booze, which isn’t topic to value-added tax within the area, Menon says. “Put collectively, it’s a heady mixture of poor training, unemployment, alcoholism and, maybe, eventual suicide.”

The variations between the White city and the remainder of Puducherry grow to be extra obvious when you think about the Aurobindo ashram, based in 1926 and now reportedly a neighborhood of about 2,000 folks. Followers of the Aurobindo are overrepresented within the White city, and since it’s a closed neighborhood, their life-style differs from the remainder of the town. Children there are taught a unique curriculum and don’t have any formal exams. “Consequently, you’ll be able to argue that stress is relatively much less,” says Menon. Thus, fewer suicides? “I have no idea,” he says, “however it is a speculation.”

The foremost subject in Puducherry doesn’t appear to be psychological well being problems or despair, however relatively the presence of psychological stressors and environmental components. A 2016 research within the Indian Journal of Psychological Medication discovered that of 40 tried suicide circumstances reviewed, 100% had reported experiencing some kind of psychological stress, and none had a earlier psychiatric prognosis.

The ubiquity of suicides and suicide makes an attempt right here solely serves to normalize it. A JIPMER research discovered that docs from Puducherry have been extra accepting of suicide than docs from different nations, with a ignorance that suicidal ideas could be indicative of a major problem. 

Some organizations in Puducherry are working to vary that. Belief for Youth and Baby Management is a nonprofit that counsels youth in Puducherry and runs a suicide hotline. Final 12 months, that hotline obtained 288 calls from younger adults within the city — 257 p.c greater than the variety of calls in 2017. “TYCL is endeavor analysis on the 360-degree root trigger [of] youth suicide in Puducherry,” says Siva Mathiyazhagan, co-founder of TYCL. The group steadily holds workshops and profession steering classes for college students, and gives training mortgage assist, providing assets that many younger folks there don’t have. “[These] companies are stopping younger folks from suicide social stigma [and] selling optimistic psychological well-being in Puducherry,” Mathiyazhagan says. 

Regardless of the excessive suicide charge, Puducherry maintains its enchantment for some. Menon, who has lived there for greater than twenty years, says the city has “old-worldly appeal and tranquility,” and describes it as “a melting pot of cuisines, cultures and couture.”

As organizations like TYCL proceed to push for change, hopefully, extra Puducherry residents will be capable to get pleasure from these points too. 

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