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Why Bangalore is India's suicide capital
Vicky Nanjappa in Bangalore
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February 14, 2008

Bangalore is India's suicide capital.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau, at least 35 in every 100,000 people in Bangalore commit suicide.

Why is Bangalore seeing an increasing number of suicides?

Experts say most suicide cases in the city are related to stress; its citizens are unable to cope with Bangalore's quick growth. If you walk into Bangalore's leading hospitals, you will find a large number of patients suffering from stress-related ailments.

Doctors specialising in this disorder told that, on an average, they treat at least 10 patients a day for stress-related ailments.

A doctor at the city's Manipal Hospital said, on condition of anonymity, "We admit such patients to monitor them. They remain in hospital for at least a day or two before they are discharged. We keep them on medication if necessary or we advise counselling."

Work and the city's chaotic traffic contribute to increased stress among Bangalore residents. Anoushka Tripathy, a clinical psychologist, says, "Several of my patients, especially from the IT and BPO industry, complain that they are unable to cope with their work. Extended work timings, competition and, most importantly, insecurity at work are contributing to an increase in people's stress levels."

Another reason is that many young people working in these industries have no family life. "By the time they return from work, it is quite late. Their family members are either sleeping or they themselves are too tired to talk, which makes them very lonely."

Take the case of Ravi Varma (name changed), a customer service adviser at a reputed BPO. Unable to bear the stress and loneliness, he attempted suicide five months ago. Luckily, he was saved due to quick medical attention. Ravi says the loneliness and stress got to him. He hardly had any time to spend with his family or friends. "Sometimes I felt like discussing work-related issues with my family, but never got the opportunity because of my work hours."

Ravi's mother says she never thought the problem was this bad until he attempted suicide. "We now take him for regular counselling and yoga class. We are making attempts to create time to spend with each other. Giving up his job is not the solution," she says.

Traffic-related stress is another problem Bangaloreans are grappling with. The number of vehicles in the city has grown five-fold and Bangalore just does not have the infrastructure to cope. Between 8 am to 10 am and 6 pm to 8 pm, the city looks like a village that has exploded.

Those working in the IT sector have to travel at least 20 kilometres to 25 kilometres to reach their work place and, thanks to the traffic jams, the travel time increases by a good one-and-a-half hours at the very least. The pressure of meeting deadlines and making it on time to meetings prey on their mind as they try and beat the traffic. This, in turn, contributes to increasing stress levels.

The National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences in Bangalore also treats patients for stress-related ailments. Doctors at NIMHANS say software engineers in the age group of 24 to 30 years form a large chunk of the patients facing this problem. The doctors add that such patients complain of restlessness, lack of concentration, anxiety and body pain -- all of which are symptomatic of stress.

In the last two months, over 100 IT professionals have made a beeline to Ayurvedic centres for de-stressing programmes, where they are taught how to strike a balance between their personal and professional lives.

A close study indicates that work-related insecurity, extended working hours and stringent deadlines also contribute to Bangalore's rising stress levels. Psychiatrists say those afflicted by stress should spend more time with the family and talk about their problem.

Moreover, people working in the BPO and IT industries constantly need to adjust to different cultures as they keep interacting with different people of different nationalities. This constant change also takes a toll on them, the doctors say.

The common factor, the doctors add, is that most of these youngsters are stressed out about money. Since the IT boom took place, salaries are at an unbelievable high. This has prompted banks to make tempting loan offers. At least five out of 10 IT workers fall into the trap.

Says Kishore Alva, a software engineer, "It is the EMIs that worry us. How do we repay the banks if we lose our jobs? This factor is on my mind almost every day and increases my stress levels."

While hospitals deal with at least 10 patients a day on an average, counsellors see five patients a day as against five patients in five days three years ago.

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