If an icon like Amitabh Bachchan can seek help, as he did when he asked Yash Chopra for a role during a financially difficult time, others need not feel ashamed to do so; say psychiatrists in Mumbai.
They may have good reason to offer this advice. Lack of awareness about mental health issues and social stigma have contributed to an increase in the number of business people dying by suicide in 2018, breaking a trend of declining numbers over the last two years. A total of 7,990 business people died this way in 2018, up 2.7 per cent from 7,778 the previous year, show government statistics from the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). This is based on data which looked at the profession of the people who committed suicide.
The largest number of such cases were in Karnataka (1,113). This is followed by Maharashtra (969) and Tamil Nadu (931). These states are also among the highest-ranked in terms of gross state domestic product, a measure of economic output.
“Now suddenly people feel that it’s become very difficult…even if you are working hard the whole day; it is not necessary that you may make money,” said psychiatrist and author Anjali Chhabria. "People are ashamed and are often made to feel helpless by factors that may not be in their hands," she said.
Separately NCRB data also shows causes of suicide. Over 4,970 individuals died by suicide because of bankruptcy or indebtedness in 2018. They accounted for 3.7 per cent of the total number of suicide deaths during the year. Interestingly, this is slightly lower than the 5,151 such suicides seen in the previous year, which accounted for 4 per cent of the total suicides in 2017.
Mumbai-based psychiatrist Harish Shetty said that the number could be understated.
Bankruptcy is not disclosed in a lot of instances and such cases are often attributed more vaguely to family issues. This is also because of the perceived shame associated with failure in business.
“Business loss has a lot of stigma, and it’s not shared very easily by the family,” he said.
Family issues was the second biggest recorded cause of such instances. It rose from 30.1 per cent in 2017 of the cases to 30.4 per cent in 2018. Family issues can also crop up because of financial stress, pointed out Harish Shetty.
Illness accounted for another 17.7 per cent of such instances in 2018. Marriage-related issues accounted for 6.2 per cent, drug abuse or addiction accounted for 5.3 per cent, while love affairs contributed to another four per cent.
Although 2018 represents a decline, it still accounts for more than 13 suicides a day only on account of bankruptcy. Looking at the data by profession, one finds that business people ended their lives at the rate of 21 every day.
Maharashtra accounted for 1,541 bankruptcy-related suicides, leading the states where such instances are found. It is followed by Karnataka at 1391. Within the cities, Bengaluru leads with 142 bankruptcy suicides. Mumbai only had 20 in 2018.
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