According to the “Suicide in India 2018” data released by the National Crime Record Bureau, housewives accounted for 17.1 percent of suicides in this year. To give you a context, persons engaged in the farming sector accounted for 7.7 percent, while unemployed people accounted for 9.6 percent and daily wage earners accounted for 22.4 percent (highest) suicides respectively. Which means housewives were only second to daily wage earners when it came to the distribution of suicide victims by profession. While farmer suicides need our immediate attention, as does the rate of unemployment in this country, one wonders why the mental health crisis among housewives, that claims nearly twice as many lives isn’t being talked about much? Does the secondary social status due to gender make women in this country so disposable, that we are barely having any kind of conversation regarding these statistics?
- According to NCRB’s Suicides in India 2018 report, housewives account for 17.1 percent suicides in the year.
- Suicide claimed 22,937 Indian housewives in 2018. Accounting for 54.1 percent of the total female victims overall.
- However, the mental health crisis among Indian housewives, and women in general, isn’t discussed enough.
- Why is it so difficult for women to seek mental health care in our country?
Does the secondary social status due to gender make women in this country so disposable, that we are not even creating any noise over these statistics?
The mental health crisis among Indian women isn’t discussed enough. But the situation is much bleaker than we think it to be. A Lancet Public Health study suggests that Indian women accounted for 36 percent of global female suicide deaths in 2016. These figures become even more alarming when you take into account the fact that they made up for less than 18 percent of the world’s female population. But what makes women so susceptible to suicides in our country? Is it the complete ignorance towards their mental well being by the society, or the pressure to endure their ordeal in silence, for the sake of peace at home?
As many as 22,937 lives is not an inconsequential number, but that is exactly how many housewives India lost to suicide in a mere year. The stigma around mental health keeps people from discussing issues like depression, anxiety and the loss of will to live. We are opening up about mental health slowly, but the conversation is usually from a third-party perspective. We assume it happens to other people that we know. Not to us, or our loved ones. We never see the signs in our husbands, fathers, mothers, friends, or even ourselves. Even if we do, we choose to largely deny. How could it happen to us? Opening up about your mental health struggles and seeking help is a different struggle altogether, which causes people to bear their ordeal in silence and loneliness.
It will take generations of women to finally rid themselves of the conditioning which demands them to be sacrificial, obedient, silent and enduring, but no time is better to initiate that change than right now.
For women, the burden isn’t just to not open up, but to endure their everyday crisis in silence and with a smile. It is this silent suffering that may pile up over years and decades, leading to a mental health crisis with grievous consequences. Women are conditioned to be these sacrificial beings who must dedicate their lives to caring for others and making their loved ones happy. As a result, women develop a tendency to put themselves last. This tendency usually comes into play after marriage where the in-laws, children, husband and extended relatives become a priority, but not their personal well-being. What’s more, they are expected to not talk back and endure differences with anyone in the household for the sake of their family.
Divorce and separation are still frowned upon and an impossibility for most housewives who are financially dependent on their spouses. Also, women have internalised the notion that an unsuccessful marriage or an unsatisfied family is their personal failure. The result is, that numerous women are stuck in unhappy marriages, from which hey cannot walk away. They simply have nowhere to go. Isn’t it evident how this could push women into taking an extreme step?
Just discussing mental health isn’t enough, considering the size and nature of the crisis that we are dealing within our country. We need to de-stigmatise personal happiness which is often seen as selfishness. It will take generations of women to finally rid themselves of the conditioning which demands them to be sacrificial, obedient, silent and enduring. But no time is better to initiate that change than right now. Put your foot down this instant, not just for yourself, but for women around you. If you see someone putting themselves last, tell them, that it is not a crime to focus on your individual happiness. If we truly care for women in our lives isn’t it our duty to ensure their well-being?
Image Credit: NewLoveTimes
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.