Suicide Rate – A Report

A Report on the comparison of the suicide rate between the sister states and the top 5 developed states of India.

G S Swetha Rao, Shatabdi Banerjee, Mahima Meshramkar, Smrithi S, Gouri Chandran


Suicide – the most sincere form of self-criticism and one that doesn’t mean there was no killer. It is the third leading cause of death among young adults round the globe. There has been a growing recognition on the prevention strategies that are required to be tailored to the region-specific demographics of a country and that are to be implemented in a culturally-sensitive manner.

An inevitable increase has been recorded in the rates of suicide in India over the years, although trends of both increases and decline in the same have been observed as well. Varying from the global demographic risk factors, in India, the marital status is not necessarily protective and the female: male ratio in the rate of suicide is higher.

Suicide is also among the top three causes of death among youth worldwide. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), every year, almost one million people die from suicide and 20 times more people attempt.  A global mortality rate of 16 per 100,000, or one death every 40 seconds and one attempt every 3 seconds, on an average is recorded. Suicide worldwide is estimated to represent 1.8% of the total global burden of disease in 1998 and in 2020; this figure is projected to be 2.4% in countries with market and former socialist economies. Thus, preventive strategies implemented at a community level and identifying potentially vulnerable individuals maybe more effective than global strategies.

In a historical perspective, the understanding of suicide in the Indian context calls for an appreciation of the literary, religious and cultural ethos of the subcontinent because tradition has rarely permeated the lives of people for as long as it has in India. Ancient Indian texts are of stories of valor in which suicide as a means to avoid shame and disgrace was glorified. Suicide has been a part of the great epics of Ramayana and Mahabharata as well. Lord Sri Ram’s death led to an epidemic of suicide in his kingdom, Ayodhya. The sage Dadhichi sacrificed his life for the Gods to use his bones in the war against the demons.  The Holy Scriptures again, condemn suicide and state that ‘he who takes his own life will enter the sunless areas covered by impenetrable darkness after death’.

However, the Vedas permit suicide for religious reasons and consider that the best sacrifice is that of one’s own life. Sati, where a woman immolates herself on the pyre of her husband rather than live the life of a widow in which Rajput women killed themselves to avoid humiliation at the hands of invading Muslim armies, was practiced until as early as half of the 20th century; stray cases anyway continue to be reported.

According to the most recent World Health Organization (WHO) data that was available as of 2011, India ranks 43rd in descending order of rate of suicide with a rate of 10.6/100,000 reported in 2009 (WHO suicide rates). The rate of suicide has greatly increased among youth, and youth are now the group at highest risk among the one-third of the developed and developing countries.

This report focuses on the suicide status of the North Eastern states (Arunachal Pradesh, Assam, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram, Nagaland, Tripura and Sikkim) and is also a comparative analysis of the suicide status of the sister states and the major developed states of India (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh and West Bengal).  The North Eastern India covers an area of 255,511 square kilometers (98,653 sq mi), or about seven percent of India’s total area. As of 2011 they had a population of 44.98 million making about 3.7 percent of India’s total. Although there is great ethnic and religious diversity within the sister states, they share similarities in the political, social and economic scenario. The economy here is agrarian. Little land for settled agriculture! The inaccessible topography and internal disturbances has kept the region out of the reach of rapid industrialization.

The NCRB has recorded from the year 2001 to 2012 suicide rate of the sister states to be 12801 (5%) in number and the developed status, being in much better economic conditions and leading a better lifestyle, accounting to 251628 (95%) on the whole. The common reasons behind suicides considered and analysed will be explained later in the report.


This section explores the geographical, epidemiological, sociological and demographic factors affecting the rate of suicide in the “sister-states” of India. Distinct from global demographic system, the north eastern states have a system of their own.


Known as the “Paradise Unexplored”, these states have similarities in political, social and economic contexts. These similarities are also evident in their suicide rates to a great extent. The intentionality and lethality of the suicide are important dimensions which describe the motive behind the act. Looking closely into the motives, in this report we are concentrating on the top 10 causes or correlates of suicide in India from 2001-2012. They are dowry dispute, drug abuse addiction, illegitimate pregnancy, poverty, insanity/mental illness, total illness including STDs, physical abuse, unemployment and failure in examination. Research has emphasized the cultural ramifications of suicide—relative to developed states, where suicidal behaviour tends to be interpreted as a symptom of individual mental health, in poorer states; it is often considered a normal, albeit last-resort response.

The north eastern states are still considered to be the less developed states in the country. The states are a hub of the tribes all over the nation. Partly the result of a social, political and physical isolation these sister states are away from most of the stress and trauma that is experienced by the outside population but still there are many factors which shadow their life in the areas.

Most accounts and discussions about these sister states point out their diversity in people, flora and fauna. The region is rich in natural resources and could potentially be one of the wealthiest regions of India. However, the factors projecting today indicate that despite of some progress in a few of the North Eastern states eg, Mizoram, overall growth rates over the past years have remained low, poverty incidence (especially in Assam) is high, there are still a number of areas documenting natural resource degradation, depleting the very assets that are usually highlighted as offering the greatest potential for growth and development in the North Eastern Region. Thus, in recent years, the region has missed out on the economic growth acceleration witnessed in much of India. The region’s agriculture sector has been declining, and diversification into services and manufacturing has been inadequate.

A study on the rate of suicides amongst these states itself will show to what extent the environment prevailing around them had influenced this phenomenon. As said earlier we have done the analysis of the rate of suicide among these states over a period of 11 years. The reasons which we are focusing has a more or less direct impact on the lives they are having in those regions, say poverty, unemployment etc.

The table given below is compiled from the Suicidal Deaths in India Report published by National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB), Government of India and is a perfect image of the shift in the rate of suicides over the years.

Sister states Year Total no of suicides Mid-year projected population

(in lakh)

Rate of suicide
Nagaland 2001 81 1990 0.040
  2012 60 2275 0.266
Manipur 2001 82 2167 0.037
  2012 82 2478 0.033
Mizoram 2001 108 889 0.121
  2012 346 1016 0.340
Tripura 2001 1779 3199 0.368
  2012 1746 3658 0.477
Meghalaya 2001 259 2319 0.111
  2012 192 2651 0.072
Assam 2001 5454 26656 0.204
  2012 6932 30445 0.204
Arunachal Pradesh 2001 225 1098 0.204
  2012 267 1255 0.212

Based on the survey conducted by the National Crime Records Bureau (2012)

Over the years these northeast states have been exposed to a host of hostile environment and drugs, which in the long term had affected the minds of the people. In Tripura, the rate of suicide seems more in the interior areas where largely the tribes reside due to poverty and also unemployment. Tripura also has an open border with Bangladesh whereby huge cache of drugs has made way to the market. Over abuse of these substances can lead to mood swings which would lead to depression and mental illness. Also amongst the farmers who have lost their land there is this problem of unemployment. These factors may also add to the alarming rates of suicide in the state of Tripura. In Mizoram around nine persons on an average committed suicide every month till June 2012, with depression being the main reason for the deaths.

Unemployment is a major reason of the suicides in the north eastern states. Being unemployed can lead to feelings of isolation and might lead to depression. With a poor economy, many people lose their jobs and look for new work, but since the competition is fierce and opportunity is less, landing a new job can becomes difficult in these areas.

Due to geographical location people belonging to hill station or higher altitude regions specially gets trapped in, socially isolated from society. This geographical disadvantage and lack of activity can take a toll on mental health and lead a person to become depressed. Failure in competitive examinations was also a reason for the large number of suicides in the state. In fact, Assam recorded the second-highest number of suicides in the country, 254, owing to failure in exams in 2012. At least 151 men and 103 women in Assam killed themselves last year after they failed in various examinations, revealed the NCRB statistics. Thus the suicidal rate of the youth had increased solely due to the reasons of failure in examination and drug abuse and addiction. The educational system is not strong enough to mould the minds of the youth in order provide the wings towards their dreams. It may be noted that there has been an increase in the number of student suicide rates due to various reasons and the startling reality is that the concerned officials are not even taking any steps to curb the situation. The education system however focuses only on the hard-core education centred upon procuring better marks that leaves the student community dissolved.

Tripura ranks first in suicide cases while Meghalaya comes third among the states of the Northeast with a smaller population. The 2011 statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) reveal that 1,35,585 people died of suicide in states with  smaller population in India, with Tripura topping the list with 703 reported cases, followed by Meghalaya (156), Arunachal Pradesh (134), Mizoram (90), Nagaland (33) and Manipur (33).

Tripura appears to have been a suicide-prone state in the past decade. The crime record bureau’s figure of 703 suicides in a year is in fact a shade lower than figures tabled in the state Assembly earlier. The suicide rate among different sections of people in Tripura continues to rise. As many as 2130 suicide cases have been reported in the last three years till 2012. Out of these, 267 are students and 194 are unemployed. There are also 25 government employees and 511 housewives on the list of people who have committed suicide. The data revealed that youngsters and unemployed people are more prone to commit suicide. Unequal social and economic benefits are listed as causes to why people are committing suicide. The data claimed that at least three people on an average are committing suicide everyday. According to the latest National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report, the national average suicide rate is 10.6 per cent. Other North-Eastern states like Assam and Mizoram recorded 8.7 per cent and 8.2 per cent respectively. Manipur recorded 1.2 per cent, Meghalaya 5.2 per cent, Nagaland 1.7 per cent and Arunachal Pradesh 9.7 per cent, according to the NCRB report.

The World Health Organization estimates that there were 260,000 suicide deaths in India in 2012 alone; twice as many deaths as HIV/AIDS and almost the same number as mental illness in the north eastern states.


However, we can see that the suicides caused due to physical abuse, illegitimate pregnancy and dowry dispute is comparatively low with reference to the study. This is because within these tribal people they have a more mutual relationship built on love and trust rather than what we see in the cities. In the metropolitan cities, the people are more after the materialistic pleasures that they lose the moral values and rules. On the contrary these tribal states have got more moral lifestyle than the cities.


Suicide Status in the Developed states 

The state of Maharashtra contributes 14% to the country’s GDP leading the list of the top most developed states of India. Second on the list is UP contributing 8% to the country’s GDP and is well known for sugar production, it accounts to 70% of the country’s sugar. Thirdly, Tamil Nadu, which is a major producer of rice and turmeric in India. It also has the second largest state economy of India. Fourth on the list is Gujarat. It contributes 7% to the country’s GDP. West Bengal stands fifth on the list of the top 5 developed states on India.

Comparatively, the developed states do not step back in this scenario either. As per the NCRB data suggests, there is a considerably higher rate of suicide in the developed states as well. Potential reasons being the same, (dowry disputes, drug abuse/addiction, and failure in examination, illegitimate pregnancy, STD, insanity, physical abuse, poverty and unemployment).

From the years 2001 to 2012, in the top 5 developed states (Gujarat, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Uttar Pradesh) 251628 suicide cases have been recorded on the whole.

16085 (6%) dowry dispute suicides, 15172 (6%) Drug Abuse/Addiction suicides, 14144 (6%) due to failure in examination, 1144 (0%) due to illegitimate pregnancy, 136329 (55%) due to STD’s, 40038 (16%) due to mental illness / insanity, 1371 (1%) physical abuse suicides, 9684 (4%) due to poverty and 15453 (6%) due to unemployment have been recorded as per NCRB suggests.


However, West Bengal and Maharashtra stood out when compared to the other developed states of India as the former reported the highest number of dowry dispute suicides (6401), failure in examination suicides (5371), illegitimate pregnancy suicides (568) and the latter reported the highest number of drug abuse / addiction suicides (10982), mental illness and insanity suicides (14859), physical abuse suicides (394), poverty suicides (4083), STD suicides (53509) unemployment suicides (4493).


According to the World Health Organization, every forty seconds a life is lost through suicide (worldwide). Suicide is a tendency which leads to self-destruction. The victim is usually under immense depression.

The Mental Health Care Bill was introduced to the Rajya Sabha on August 19, 2013 and provides, in article 124, that “Notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to be suffering from mental illness at the time of attempting suicide and shall not be liable to punishment under the said section.” It also provides that the Government shall have the duty to provide medical care to any such person attempting suicide. The Bill, therefore, does not repeal Section 309 of the Indian Penal Code, but merely provides the presumption of mental illness.

When we talk about the causes of suicides; religious, social and economic circumstances, education are all that come to mind. We usually forget some of other reasons which can also be some of the other causes mentioned before. The suicides through purely physical sufferings occur in a greater number among the upper ranks than among the lower. Perhaps the passive endurance of a life of material hardship has been a better training than a course of possibly unconscious and fairly innocent self-indulgence and softer living. This report brings out the difference between the suicide rate in the North-eastern states of India and the other five states which are considered to be the top five states, as per suicide is concerned, namely, West Bengal, Tamil Nadu, Gujarat, Maharashtra and Uttar Pradesh.

The causes mentioned in this report are: Dowry dispute, Drug Abuse/Addiction, Unemployment, Failure in Examination, Illegitimate Pregnancy, Illness (AIDS/STD), Insanity, Physical Abuse (Rape, Incest), Poverty, Poverty, Professional/Career Problem, Illicit Relationship. These were seen as the heavily marked causes for suicide in the north-eastern states as well as in the other states. Through this report, one can see how the urban lifestyle has created more complexities in life which is leading to the increase in number of suicides. North-eastern states of our country are closer to nature, they have their own way of living, they have less complexity in their lives, and hence, one can compare and see that their suicide rate is lesser than these above mentioned top five states.


When we look at the socio-economic statuses of these north-eastern states and the top five states, we could see that the former is lesser than the latter. The 8 North- eastern states put together show 5% of the total suicides committed, where as the top 5 states put together show 95% of the total suicides committed.

The highest incidents of suicides were,16,307, reported in Maharashtra followed by 16,122 suicides in Tamil Nadu and 14,310 suicides in West Bengal accounting for 12.4%, 12.2% and 10.9% respectively of total suicides. Karnataka (10,945 suicides) and Telangana (9,623 suicides) accounted for 8.3% and 7.3% respectively of the total suicides reported in the country. These 5 States together accounted for 51.1% of the total suicides reported in the country. The remaining 48.9% suicides were reported in the remaining twenty-four States and seven union territories. Uttar Pradesh, the most populous state (17.0% share of country population) has reported comparatively lower percentage share of suicidal deaths, accounting for only 2.7% of the total suicides reported in the country. Tamil Nadu reported the highest number of suicidal deaths in 2012 and 12.2% respectively of total such deaths in the country.






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