Suicidal Behaviour

Suicide causes irreparable harm, pain, suffering and loss to individuals, families and communities. In 2016, there were over 2.3 lakh suicides in India. To get an idea of how serious this problem is, consider that the yearly average worldwide is about 8 lakh. This means that, in 2016, 29% of the suicides in the world happened in India, which has only 17% of the world’s human population.

This is a crisis not just for families and loved ones but for the whole country.

To make matters worse, the social stigma and fear of public shame means that the true number is probably higher, with many cases going unreported or classified as natural deaths.

It’s important to understand what drives people to such despair that they feel the only way out is to take their own lives.


There’s no single, easy-to-understand reason why people die by suicide. There may be social, psychological and cultural factors at work. These factors may interact in different ways. Sometimes, people undergo long periods of thinking about suicide before acting upon those thoughts. Others may take an impulsive step.

Here are some of the risk factors to be aware of:

Societal Community Relationships Individual
  • Difficult to access or receive care
  • Access to means of suicide
  • Inaccurate or inappropriate reporting in the media
  • Stigma associated with mental illness, substance abuse, suicide or psychological problems that prevents people from seeking help
  • Poverty
  • Personal experience of trauma or abuse
  • Experiences of war or natural disasters
  • Experiences of discrimination or bigotry
  • Social isolation or lack of support
  • Breakdown of relationships
  • Personal loss, tragedy or conflicts with loved ones
  • History of suicidal thoughts or attempts
  • Self-harm
  • Mental illness
  • Substance abuse
  • Financial loss
  • Chronic pain or illness
  • Family history of suicide or mental illness

Signs & Indications

If someone you know is showing one or more of these signs, they may be thinking about suicide. Don’t delay or ignore these warnings. Get help immediately.


Talking about…

  • Wanting to die or kill themselves
  • Feeling hopeless or having no reason to continue living
  • Feeling trapped, in unbearable pain or wanting the pain to be over
  • Being a burden to others
  • Seeking revenge or striking back

The person is…

  • Researching ways to kill themselves
  • Increasing their intake of alcohol or drugs
  • Behaving anxiously or recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing from social interaction and isolating themselves
  • Showing rage or other severe mood swings

Each one of us has a role to play in fighting this crisis. By paying attention to the wellbeing of people in our community, being open and understanding, and listening to their pain, we can help those at risk by letting them know that they are not being judged, stigmatised or shunned, and that there are people who care about them.

People who are socially isolated because of their suicidal thoughts or while recovering from an attempt can feel worse because they believe they are being judged, stigmatised or shamed. By showing care and respect for them, we can help them overcome these feelings and reach out for the support and treatment they need.

It can be difficult and intimidating to start such conversations. But remember, you don’t have to be a mental health expert to help someone in distress. Listen, care, support them, and reach out to an emergency helpline.


Suicide is preventable.

Treatment for suicidal thoughts and attempts depends on the specific situation, the level of risk and what underlying problems you may be facing.

Call a suicide hotline or someone you trust when you are feeling suicidal. You are loved and needed, no matter how bad things may seem at the time.

Here are some of the treatments that can help:

Psychotherapy. Your therapist will help you explore the issues that are making you feel suicidal and learn the skills to manage your emotions more effectively. You can work with your therapist to develop a treatment plan and goals.

Medication. Medical intervention can reduce symptoms and reduce your suicidal thoughts and feelings. If you are already being treated with medication, take your doses on time and as prescribed. Talk to your doctor openly and honestly if you are feeling suicidal.

Addiction treatments. Substance use disorder treatments can help you get back control of your life.

Family support and education. The people you love can be a source of conflict or support. Involving them in your treatment can help them understand your pain and how better to show their love and care for you.

If you think someone you care about is considering suicide, have an honest conversation about your concerns. Offer encouragement and support, help them to reach out to a qualified mental health specialist and offer to go with them. Learn as much as you can about what drives people to such depths of despair, and above all, listen without judgement. Don’t forget to take care of yourself too.

Don’t delay or minimise suicidal thoughts and feelings. Help is available.