Indian Journal of PsychiatryIndian Journal of Psychiatry
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Year : 2021  |  Volume : 63  |  Issue : 5  |  Page : 467-482

Hunger, fear, and isolation – A qualitative analysis of media reports of COVID-19-related suicides in India

1 Sangath, Goa; Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy, Pune, Maharashtra, India; Care and Public Health Research Institute, Maastricht University, Netherlands
2 Sangath, Goa; Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Department of Global Health and Population, Harvard TH Chan School of Public Health, Boston, Massachusetts, USA

Correspondence Address:
Madhumitha Balaji
Centre for Mental Health Law and Policy, Indian Law Society, Law College Road, Shivajinagar, Pune - 411 004, Maharashtra

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Source of Support: None, Conflict of Interest: None

DOI: 10.4103/indianjpsychiatry.indianjpsychiatry_100_21

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Background: India's suicide rates are among the highest in the world and may increase further as a consequence of COVID-19. There is a need to examine which pandemic related stressors may be contributing to suicide, in order to inform the deployment of suicide prevention strategies, for the current as well as future pandemics. Aim: To understand pandemic related stressors contributing to suicide in India. Methods: We identified and conducted a thematic analysis of Internet media reports of COVID-19 related suicides in India between February 1, 2020 (2 days after the first COVID-19 case), and May 31, 2020, (the end of phase four of the nationwide lockdown). Results: Ten pandemic stressors spanning both disease and lockdown-related factors were identified in 291 suicides. Economic hardship was present in a third; other notable stressors were: fear of the virus; isolation; desperation to be connected with loved ones or return home; and craving for alcohol. Men and young people seemed particularly vulnerable to these stressors. Conclusions: COVID-19 related suicides appear to be precipitated by social and economic adversities, mainly associated with containment strategies. These findings need to be confirmed by national suicide data. Suicide prevention strategies should mitigate the impact of recognized stressors in the long term, target high-risk individuals, and offer mental health care alongside containment strategies.



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