Upholding Dharma: Safeguarding Against Aatma Hatya, Suicide

Upholding Dharma: Safeguarding Against Aatma Hatya, Suicide

Our ancient Sastras offer profound insights into comprehending and navigating the intricate tapestry of life and death. While the demise of the elderly is accepted as a natural part of the life cycle, accidental deaths or those occurring during natural calamities, though tragic, are events we learn to cope with over time. However, atma hatya, suicide, occupies a unique and troubling category—it is dur-maranam, unnatural and morally wrong. It becomes the collective dharma of individuals connected to someone exhibiting suicidal tendencies to earnestly strive to prevent such a tragedy.

News of suicides often reaches us through newspapers, social media, and various channels. While it's a topic many prefer to avoid, we must confront it. Suicide represents a squandering of invaluable human capital on a national scale—a life prematurely terminated, failing to realize its inherent potential. Life, as our scriptures proclaim, is a divine gift, bhagavad prasad; individuals are not 'owners' of their lives but mere trustees.

Suicide is predominantly a tamasic act, emanating from feelings of failure, fear, helplessness, and, ultimately, hopelessness. Occasionally, it stems from a rajasic act, fueled by anger and rage. Government data from 2021 reports 160,000 suicide deaths—an estimate that likely falls short due to underreporting. For every reported suicide, it's believed that 20 attempts may have been made, with some fortunate enough to survive. Each suicide is estimated to impact around 60 individuals.

To address this grave issue, we must take proactive measures as conscientious citizens.

Action Plan:

  1. Stay Vigilant: Be attuned to signs of prolonged dissatisfaction and unhappiness within your nuclear family. Initiate open conversations to draw the person out. Sharing concerns with trusted family members can offer clarity and hope.
  2. Seek Professional Help: If needed, enlist the expertise of a psychologist to prevent the descent into depression.
  3. Extend Support: Offer similar suggestions and assistance to families of individuals showing signs of suicidal thoughts known to you.
  4. School Involvement: If you have children, actively participate in Parent-Teacher Meetings. Encourage teachers to identify at-risk students and share your experiences and valuable counseling contacts.
  5. Community Outreach: Check the mental health status of your domestic help, driver, colleagues, and others in your network. If issues arise, extend your support. Poor mental health in their families may not be life-threatening for you, but it can be for them.
  6. Raise Awareness: Spread awareness about this issue among your contacts to foster a supportive community.

There have been distressing reports of suicides among intelligent, aspiring students in competitive coaching centers. Parents and elders must counsel such students, guiding them to explore various career options. While we cannot resurrect those lost to suicide, it is our dharma, our moral duty, to save lives at risk. Human life is precious—let us conserve our population, keep it healthy, and alive, and enhance its productivity.

By Dr. M B Athreya

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