Housewives are neglected in the discourse of mental health in India. A housewife's contribution to the family is hardly recognised, probably that's why their mental health issues are taken lightly and left unchecked.
Homemakers also neglect themselves and instead keep enduring the pain. They fail to put themselves first and get stuck in a vulnerable situation. The official data has consecutively provided evidence of growing mental problems and the prevalence of suicide among them.
Suicide Among Housewives Increased
A recent National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) report revealed in the past two consecutive years, more than half of the women who decided to end their lives were housewives. Of the 1.6 lakh, individuals who died by suicide in 2021, 45,026 were female. Among the female group, 23,178 housewives died by suicide. Housewives' suicide in 2021 increased to 51.5% from 50.3% in 2020. In 2018, 22,937 housewives died due to suicides. An increase of 6.9% compared to 2017 (21,453). Over one-third (36.6%) of suicides by women in the world in 2016 were in India, up from 25.3% in 1990, according to a 2018 Lancet report.
If these are the reported numbers, think about unreported cases? These numbers still don't teach a lesson to take preventive actions! Why is the prevalence of suicide among housewives not discussed, openly and enough? Does the unpaid work of a housewife influence discourse on mental health and suicide? Or only someone working in the office can have mental issues? Why do women keep enduring rather than speaking about it? Often homemakers' issues are dismissed by saying - You are all the time home, how can you have issues. Now, will the work location decide who can have mental trauma? Besides, What pushes a housewife to end her life?
Homemakers are vulnerable and helpless among women, specially in India. This feeling of helplessness could be comparatively more, given her socio-economic status. Many times a homemaker gets caught up in familial duties that she forgets to make herself a priority. For a homemaker, 365 days are the same, she does not have weekends. It could become suffocating but they endure without expressing their feelings. These feelings could pile up, messing with mental peace and leading to depression and anxiety. Mid-life crisis and low self-esteem could push one step closer to depression. Mental trauma is subjective yet walks the same path of outcomes.
The intensity of feeling helpless becomes serious when a homemaker is suffering from issues like infertility, dowry, slut-shamming, domestic violence and more. The 2021 report also stretched out that women in the report mostly faced marital problems such as dowry, impotence, infidelity and infertility. It affects women adversely as they are blamed for everything given social norms. It involves physical, emotional, and sexual violence, taking a toll on mental health and causing psychosomatic health problems. Lancet Psychiatry study depicts more Indian women suffer from depression and anxiety disorders and commit suicide than men with depression.
Suggested Reading - Suicide Rate Amidst Housewives: Why It Should Bother Us
A patriarchal mentality believes providing good clothes, a house, food and family is enough for a homemaker to live a happy life. But one forgets that she has sacrificed her choices to accept the so-called happy life that society has served. Post marriage, a homemaker deals with a lot of changes that come her way. If she was forced into marriage. The struggle starts right from there. In case, the family is not supportive, her dreams and aspiration take a back seat. Women are expected to blend in matrimonial relationships, automatically losing their autonomy. Her every decision is driven by keeping herself last.
The homemaker is constantly in the loop of her problems, overthinking, and overworking on them. Besides, given her financial dependence and children's future becomes difficult to make a divorce decision. Also, maternal families are less supportive of divorce. They find reconciliation better than the well-being of the daughter. To put an end to all the problems and pain, housewives might think suicide could be a way out.
The truth is suicide is not the way out. Marriages could narrow down homemakers' lives to a small world, and they become unaware of the real world. There is always a second chance that homemakers don't know or cannot make a decision, citing their familial restrictions. Interventions to make homemaker realise such second chances is vital. Only discussing mental health is not enough. A homemaker should make her choices, but for doing that, society has to stop being judgmental of her. Sacrifice, and compromise is not just her roles to fulfill. This will happen when a housewife is assertive about her feelings. Instead of enduring, she must express and seek help. Always, others are not going to be vocal about someone else battles. Every day, a small step toward change is needed.
The views expressed are the author's own.