Mental health experts sound alarm as suicide cases rise in Kashmir amid pandemic

Representational picture

Several cases of suicides in Kashmir in the past month and with the pandemic year recording the highest cases of suicides in Kashmir in a decade has raised an alarm. Mental health experts blame the rising cases of suicides in Kashmir on the distressing mental health situation that prevails in the conflict-torn region. 

Auqib Javeed |

Support TwoCircles

SRINAGAR – Back to back lockdowns in Kashmir with attendant economic crisis has triggered a wave of suicides in the Valley with mental health experts sounding an alarm.

On June 27, a teenage girl and a woman were hospitalised after they tried to commit suicide by taking some poisonous substance in the Sopore area of North Kashmir’s Baramulla district.

In another incident on June 26, a 17-year-old youth died after jumping into river Jhelum from Cement Kadal in the Noorbagh area of Srinagar—the summer capital of Jammu and Kashmir.

The family members of the youth told a Srinagar based news agency that their son identified as Saqib Ahmad Ahangar, son of Abdul Kalaam Ahangar of Kupwara jumped into river Jhelum on Friday evening.

Saqib, an 11th standard student also shot a video before the act and sought forgiveness from his parents for taking this extreme step.

Financial stress
In a pattern, on May 30, a video of a 24-year-old youth from Damhal Hanjipora area of South Kashmir’s Kulgam district recording his reason for taking his life sent shock waves across Kashmir.

The cause of his suicide narrated by the deceased before consuming poison was that his father was denied salary for the last 2.5 years by the government of Jammu and Kashmir.

“I sacrifice my life for all the teachers who have not been paid for the last two years and I can’t tell you how much trouble I have faced to this day which is why I was forced to take this step,” he said in the video, which he recorded himself.

He further said that, “I am giving my life to solve the problem of all the employees including my father who are still not getting their salaries for the last two years.”

As this report was being filed, the Jammu and Kashmir police reportedly prevented a minor girl from taking her life in Central Kashmir’s Ganderbal district.

On the evening of June 25, the police said prevented a minor from taking her life after tried to jump into the river Jhelum near Shalhar Dab village.

On May 31, a woman tried to commit suicide by jumping from Budshah bridge, Srinagar into the river Jehlum. However, the suicide was foiled by the Jammu and Kashmir police personnel and CRPF. The lady was bundled into a police vehicle and whisked away.

A video of the incident went viral on social media. The reason for this extreme step, according to the police, are some issues that the woman was facing with her in-laws.

As the cases like these are rising in Kashmir, which is predominantly a conservative society, questions are being raised by many netizens on social media.

Mental health experts in Kashmir said taking one’s life adds more problems for the family of the victim and creates societal problems as well.

45 per cent of population in distress
Dr Yasir Rather, a noted psychiatrist and Professor at the Institute of Mental Health & Neurosciences (IMHANS), Government Medical College, Srinagar told that people who have suicidal behaviour or attempt suicide have a “cognitive distortion” known as fortune-telling where they feel like nothing is going to get better in their lives.

“Actually in their minds, they start believing that nothing can be fixed. But it’s a cognitive distortion coming from a mental health illness which needs to be dealt with medically,” he said.

Dr Rather believes that suicide isn’t just an action committed by an individual, “it has a causal factor of underlying mental health illness.”

A 2015 study conducted by the Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) – an international humanitarian medical non-governmental organisation said that “45 per cent of Kashmiri population is in distress”

“And it has been around six years since the study came out. In these years, people have accumulated more trauma. Be it the uncertain conflict situation in Kashmir and now the Covid-19 pandemic for the past 1.5 years,” he added.

Dr Rather, however, ruled that the pandemic and lockdown are not the “only” reasons for suicide.

“These are the factors that add to the vulnerability towards suicide in patients with mental health illnesses,” he said.

The back to back lockdown in Kashmir has had an impact. Due to a depleted economy, people are experiencing financial stress, employment issues, emotional stressors, change in family ties, domestic abuse, experiencing helplessness. All these factors, as per experts, have contributed towards harming the mental health of the people of Kashmir and “creating a risk factor for suicide.”

Dr Rather while terming suicide “an offshoot of mental health-illness” urged the stakeholders including parents and teachers to fix responsibility to prevent suicides from turning into an epidemic.

Highest cases of suicides in pandemic
Kashmir valley has been witnessing an increasing number of suicide cases, according to data compiled by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). The erstwhile state recorded a total of 5,943 cases between 1990 and 2019.

As per the information sought under RTI Act, Srinagar-based law student, Badrul Duja, was informed by the J&K Police, in February this year, that from the year 2010 to 2020, Kashmir witnessed 3024 cases of suicide — with the pandemic year of 2020 leading the decade with 457 suicides.

“From the year 2010 to 2020, Kashmir witnessed 3024 cases of suicide—with the pandemic year of 2020 leading the decade with 457 suicides,” the data revealed.

A top police official said that the police alone cannot stop the rising cases of suicide. “The parents, teachers, religious preachers and doctors should come forward to deal with the issue,” he said.

Govt inaction worries locals
What worries people in Kashmir is that the authorities have failed to take any concrete steps to stop the suicides and break the chain.

“Just deputing a team of NDRF to these rivers can at least help to save lives,” a businessman from Srinagar’s Karan Nagar told

He said the government needs to activate the Police, Doctors and counsellors and rope in the religious leaders to break the chain.

The locals said that Srinagar’s Cement bridge has become a suicide point for the people. “So far, many people have committed suicide by jumping from this bridge,” they said.

Former Chief Minister of the erstwhile state, Omar Abdullah expressed concern over the soaring unemployment in Kashmir and increased incidents of suicide among youth.

He said the increased occurrence of suicides in Kashmir is a physical manifestation of the sordid anti-youth policies of the incumbent government pushing already aggrieved educated and skilled youth towards the wall.

The Jammu and Kashmir High Court Bar Association (JKHBA) Srinagar, blames the current suicide attempts on the financial stress of families.

“Medical and psychiatric experts believe that the main cause of suicide deaths and suicide attempts is constant financial stress in the families and least physical movement and advise the people to be more interactive with the near and dear ones to overpower the mental stress increased due to covid and financial distress,” they said in a statement.