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SUICIDE – Western docs, Psychogists and the Traditional healers

Experts talk a lot about the issues of mental health. Government organised many programs to create awareness about the problem and issues of mental health. National or local television channels, newspapers, periodical discuss the issue of mental health. And only yesterday, the state of Manipur joined the world in celebrating the World Mental Health Day. The theme was wisely picked, Suicide Prevention. There are many reported case of suicide happening in the state of Manipur. The latest, as reported, was the incident of a CRPF Constable committing suicide by shooting himself using his own service weapon at a battalion post located in Churachandpur district. In May this year, a student pursuing fourth semester graduation in Tourism and Hospitality management under Bachelor of Vocational Degree at Centre for Entrepreneurship and Skill Development at Manipur University, was found death hanging from a ceiling fan inside his hostel room. He was only 22 years old. Just few months back a married lady was found hung to death inside her room. These are few cases of suicide, to remind our readers that ‘Suicide is becoming a serious issue of our present society’. The phenomenon is no exception for the state of Manipur, but for all underdeveloped and un-developed nations across the globe. This is perhaps the reason that the WHO this time focus – Suicide Prevention as the theme of celebrating World Mental Health Day.
The history of suicide is almost as old as human society itself. The act of suicide is illegal in India under section 309 and 306 IPC, though in the historical times some states (including Manipur) approved of suicide under certain circumstances e.g.: Sati and Johar etc.
Suicidal death is emerging as major health problem worldwide and is attracting increasing attention from the medical profession and the public health agencies as well. Suicide is a leading cause of premature death especially among the young adults. For prevention of crimes and maintenance of law and order, the Law Enforcement Agencies require the data of various crime incidences, common nature of death prevalent in the community etc. Suicide being a criminal act as well as an indirect indicator of Mental Health of a community.
According to WHO statistics, the annual worldwide incidence of suicidal deaths was 16 per lakhs persons in 1995. In India, the prevalence is10 per lakhs contributing 0.5% to 1 % of all deaths as per National Crime Records Bureau, 1993.Besides being an indirect indicator of mental health of a community, it may be committed with an ulterior motive e.g. to avenge someone by planning his own death in a manner that resembles homicide.
According to researchers’ finding the sex incidence of male predominance over female in all modes of suicide is in agreement with the findings of other workers.The highest number of suicidal deaths was seen in the age groups of 21-30 years (36.48%)followed by 30-41 years (27.36%). This particular age group is the most active and explosive group. Instead of facing defeat, they might have preferred to end their life. Hanging was the commonest method of choice in the state of Manipur, but some preferred consuming poison. Researchers also finds that the common causes of suicide are alcohol and drug addiction, failure in career, unemployment, disappointed love, marital problems, family quarrels and poverty etc.
Now, Medical Sciences experts has research the cause of suicide which is based on fact findings, but the conservative Manipuri society still remain as an obstacle to find cure to the suicidal tendency culminated with the mentioned findings by experts. The experts did know the cause of suicide but have never find a way to solve it when it comes to the state of Manipur.
Before, western medical Sciences is popular to the state of Manipur, the Manipuri Society had traditional healers which acted as consultant to people who are suffering with mental problem. The structure of the society those days was even more complex and conservative that when presumed the mental state of women who had newly married would have suffered many kind of mental problems. There are still families in the state where there are many ‘DOs and DON’Ts’ to newly married woman. Change of environment and failure to adapt with the family that she had shifted still makes many filled their mind with frustrations and anger, which a women is never permitted in our male dominated family.
Outside the family, women were and are praised for their courage but in family they live a life of extreme hardship which finally affects their mental stability. Since those days, traditional healers have been playing a vital role in solving such matters.
Some 6 years back, while interacting with Clinical Physiologist Mayengbam AskhayKumar (now retired) had stated that traditional healers still play a tremendous role in the treatment of mentally distracted patients. This was flatly countered by Psychiatrists Dr. Lenin and Dr. Heramani (now retired) saying that there was no scientific judgment for engaging traditional healers to mentally disturbed patients. They even called them ‘quacks’ which is not fit to use it to the traditional healers of Manipur. Well it was the Psychiatrists views but for the Clinical Physiologist, they still preferred utilization of at least 2 traditional healers while curing mental related diseases.
Mental disturbance is the root of suicide and it is time that those who are in the profession of reducing the suicide incident think about using all means.
Revive the traditional healers, engage them for treatment at Mental Hospital in addition to the professional medical practitioners and the Psychologists for they are gifted with talents which understand real problems of conservative Manipuri society. This will perhaps help in fulfilling the gowl to reduce suicide problems in the state.

Rinku Khumukcham

Rinku Khumukcham, Editor of Imphal Times has more than 15+ years in the field of Journalism. A seasoned editor, was a former editor of ISTV News. He resides in Keishamthong Elangbam Leikai, with his wife and parents. Rinku can be contacted at [email protected] 

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