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Deep despair

After a Ghaziabad man killed his wife and kids due to financial distress, Patriot probes the reasons behind such extreme rage

Anger, depression, grief, rage — these are some of the intense emotions that an unemployed person goes through. The stress, no doubt, can become too much to handle for some and when they fail to cope with the increasing pressure, they end up committing suicide.

On April 21, Sumit Kumar, a resident of Ghaziabad killed his wife and three children. According to the local police, he served sedative-laced drinks to his wife (a teacher), and three children. Not only that, but he also slit their throats.

Kumar, not only killed his family members, but also confessed his crime on the family WhatsApp group.

According to a survey conducted by the labour bureau of Union Labour and Employment Ministry, the unemployment rate among the educated in Delhi between 18-29 years of age, stood at 2.7 per cent in the year 2015-16.

In February this year, a 22-year-old unemployed youth attempted suicide at the Sabarmati Riverfront. He was rescued by another man after a 30-minute struggle. In his statement to the police, the youth gave unemployment as the reason for the suicide attempt. He also told the police that he tried looking for even menial jobs, but failed to find any.

Hundreds of such cases have surfaced in the past, all putting the availability of jobs under the scanner.

Researchers at the Aziz Premji University used data from the Consumer Pyramids Survey of the Centre for Monitoring the Indian Economy (CMIE-CPDX) to understand the intricacies of the pressing issue of unemployment in the country.

They focused on the growth from 2016 to 2018, and as per the report posted on the university’s website, “Unemployment, in general, has risen steadily post 2011. Both the PLFS (Periodic Labour Force Survey) by National Sample Survey Office (NSSO) and the CMIE-CPDX report the overall unemployment rate to be around 6 per cent in 2018, double of what it was between 2000 to 2011.”

In its reasoning, the report showed that unemployment has largely hit those with higher education and who are young. It shows that 34 per cent of the unemployed population of urban women are graduates.

People in the age group of 20-24 years are employed, as per the report, while 60 per cent are facing unemployment.

The report states that, “Five million men lost their jobs between 2016 and 2018, the beginning of the decline in jobs coinciding with demonetisation in November 2016, although no direct causal relationship can be established based only on these trends.”

The government said that the leaked report of the periodic labour force survey by the NSSO was not the final version. The report claims that unemployment is at a 45-year high of more than 6 per cent in 2017-18.

The five-yearly employment-unemployment surveys by the NSSO and the yearly survey by the Labour Bureau have been discontinued, but the CMIE-CPDX survey is available to the public. And it covers about 1,60,000 households and 5,22,000 individuals across the country.

Unemployment directly affects a persons’ health, which is why studies too, have suggested a consortium between unemployment and suicide.

The National Crime Records Bureau’s 2015 data states that every hour, one student commits suicide.

In 2015, 8,934 students committed suicide, and in the five years leading up to 2015, the figure rose drastically to 39,775.

Experts say that students feel incompetent, and the quality of education also contributes to the reason of their unemployment.

Only 3.84 per cent of engineers in the country have the technical and cognitive skills required for software-related jobs in start-ups, according to a report by employability assessment company — Aspiring Minds.

The employability in new-age jobs such as artificial intelligence, machine learning and data science is marked at an average 1.7%.

The usual triggers

Patriot spoke to Dr Sunil Mittal, Director, Cosmos Institute of Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences and the Indian head of the World Federation of Mental Health, the largest global alliance of mental health professionals, to further understand unemployment distress and how it leads to the unemployed committing suicide and murder.

“Most people who attempt or commit suicide are going through pain and distress and they feel helpless. It’s great despondency which leads to such cases of suicides,” says Dr Mittal.

According to him, guilt and self-criticism are two other things which are also major causes for such suicides and killings. “They fail to cope in expected roles, like that of a son, father, husband or a student. Depression itself can occur because of endogenous reasons. Depression is not going to occur because of failure alone. The failure may be a preceding reason. Let’s say a hundred people lose their jobs — but not a hundred of them feel depressed,” added Dr Mittal.

“What makes a person feel depressed is the peculiar neurobiological, biopsychosocial constituent of that individual,” he adds.

He also relates the situation to harakiri, a form of ritual suicide that was practiced by the samurai and daimyo in Japan. “Where suicide occurs because you’d rather die of suicide than die of shame,” explains Dr Mittal.

“When the parents decide to end their lives, they will think of the children too. Who’s going to look after them? So, they think it’s better they take their lives as well,” he explains.

He also gives the example of farmer suicides, and how it not only requires an economic, but also a mental health solution, so that you can identify the people who are at the risk of suicide.

An individual’s impulse is another thing which also contributes to life threatening actions.  “Very often we see attempted suicide out of impulse. Their ability to tolerate frustration is low,” he adds.

There is also another possibility of an individual “who can carry out a suicidal act but not necessarily want to die. The intention may not be to die, but to release pain. The inner pain and the agony,” he says.

How to prevent

“Prevention would lie in schooling, parenting, society, tolerance and building resilience, basically in  developing the ability to cope with failures. But we don’t live in a utopian world. So, the doable thing is building a support network,” explains Dr Mittal.

He explains that the individual must be thinking about who he/she can talk to or who they can confide in. “So, one needs to find a person who the individual can reach out to. And that person needs to be a good listener and less critical,” he suggests.

And that can also be a person who too, is facing unemployment. “Like you have support groups of people suffering from cancer or bipolar disorder,” adds Mittal.

Dr Mittal also says that there’s an urgent need of of setting up a national helpline for suicide prevention. “If I’m feeling suicidal, I should know where to go. I’m desperate, and there’s a number that I can call immediately and speak to someone who’s trained to listen to me,” he says.

Talking about a personal case, he adds that medication is also effective in reducing suicidal thoughts. “The person is under medication and treatment and is no longer suicidal. And suddenly he realises that he needs to find a job and do something,” he concludes.

However, looking for a job also depends on the employability of the person and the current economic and employment scenario, which according to the figures is in a deplorable state.