Suicide in Nepal: Cowardice or Bravery?

By Lokmani Subedi
April 6, 2017

The death of revolutionary Nepali rapper YamaBuddha shocked many young Nepali. His famous song ‘Saathi’, an ode to his friend who died of drug addiction was still freshly on everyone’s mind. Recently, he had organized a ‘rap battle’ in Nepal, which saw huge youth participation and he was also preparing his upcoming album. He was found dead hanging in his bathroom on January 14, 2017.

The news of YamaBuddha’s death triggered a debate on social media. The #yamabuddha hashtag went viral. After the immediate sympathy stage, as usual, people started to give arguments on whether it was murder or suicide. While following the debate, the tweets of two people, Lenin Banjade @lendaai and Raamesh Koirala @RaameshKoirala’s, who both have a huge fanbase on their social networks caught my eye. Their arguments gave a glimpse of how we treat a social problem like suicide as a society.

Banjade tweeted in Nepali, ‘Not coward, but brave to commit suicide. People with a weak heart, do not dare to kill themselves.’ Countering this, Koirala replied, ‘Suicide is a weak attempt, a sudden impulse to death. It is all about a curable mental illness caused by several social factors so let’s not valorize it as bravery.’ Other participants in the debate were agreeing and disagreeing in their own ways. A handler replied to Banjade tweeting, ‘I fear, in the meantime of suicide becoming our major social problem and your tweet is endorsing it.

The case of YamaBuddha does not stand alone. The number of people killing themselves in Nepal is climbing high every year. According to Nepal Police Report, in the year 2068/69, 3977 people committed suicide, which has climbed up to 4667 in 2073/73. According to a report from the World Health Organization on ‘Suicide Prevention’, Nepal’s national suicide rate is 24.9 per 100,000, the seventh-highest in the world after countries like Sri Lanka and South Korea. It is also above to the regional average of 17.1. In addition, according to the same report, Nepal has the third-highest rate of female suicides, and suicide is the main cause of death among women in the 15-49 age group. According to the World Health Organization, the global suicide rate is also increasing with more than 80,000 people killing themselves every year. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds, while 77 percent of global suicide deaths occur in low-middle income countries.

There are several reasons behind the social problem that suicide has become in our country. While globally, 90 percent of all suicides are attributed to mental health problems, Nepal has no recorded statistics of causes. However, experts cite migration, displacement, and loss of support as leading to depression and driving some to take their own lives. According to the Nepal Police, the number of suicides increased from 965 to 1363 in the three months’ before and after the earthquake and depression constituted one of the main reasons. Foreign employment is another contributing factor to the high suicide rate among Nepali. According to Foreign Employment Promotion Board’s classifications, 10.4 percent of cases of migrant deaths are due to suicide. According to the International Labor Organization, from the fiscal year 2011/12 to 2014/15, 451 Nepalese migrant workers committed suicide constituting an increment from 8 to 112 in number. Mental problems constitutre another important factor,we are failing to recognize. We are not familiar with the mental health issues and avoid people who is suffering from it. In an article published in the Kathmandu Post a couple of years back, Deep Prakash Malla, consultant psychiatrist at Norvic International Hospital wrote, ‘Most suicides in the country seem to be a response to domestic disputes, financial stress, family problems, etc. However, many studies conducted on people who have attempted suicide show that the victims are usually suffering from tremendous stress and suffering from depression.’ His words summarize the condition we are living in.

Now the question is, what we are really doing to address these social problems? Are we just giving arguments after someone’s death or are we trying to call people back from their suicidal thought? Are we just labeling them as cowardice/brave or showing them the light of life?One person on the twitter debate on Yamobuddha’ death wrote, ‘we are printing suicide news as unconscious sympathy nowadays.’ However, if we carefully observe our role in it, we all share that guilt of being distant before and guilt of giving arguments afterwards. As one twitter commented, ‘Doesn't your statement demean the value of those who've coped and overcame suicidal intent?’ When will we grow out of this and start thinking of how to address underlying reasons that lead people to commit suicide?

Suicide has become a taboo among us. We are afraid to talk about it and treat it instead as a personal affair, which should not be shared with anyone. A few days back one of my friends had suicidal thoughts and he explained to me how he is feeling helpless. He could not share his thoughts and feelings with his family, as people in Nepal usually don’t accept mental weaknesses like this and treat people with suicidal thoughts as a cowardice. So where should a mentally weak person go to share his feelings? Unfortunately, I did not know how to handle my friend’s situation. Will I also label him as brave after he dies? Am I not cowardice myself in this situation? I asked myself how I want to see my friend. The answer is that I just want him to be alive. One twitterer wrote that ‘suicide is not really cowardice or bravery, it is the curse to family members, who live in guilt forever thereafter.’ I do not fully agree with this. The family members who share their feelings may also be helpless like I was after listening to my friend. But one thing is obvious that at least listening their problem could be a way out for the person with suicidal thoughts.

According to a tweet in the discussion aroung Yamabuddha’s death by Raamesh Koirala, who is also a government surgeon by profession, ‘suicidal thought can be cured. If someone receives good counseling, they can win against it.’ There are many psychosocial counseling centers and services here in Nepal including TPO Nepal, CMC Nepal, the National Mental Health Network and the Manosamjik Suswasthya portal etc. Not only Government zonal hospitals, but Teaching Hospitals too have psychosocial counseling centers that can help to cope with psychological problems.

You can help someone reach there. If suicide is the reason to die, winning against it means saving a life. So let’s commit ending it before it happens to one of us, our family members and friends. Let’s be cowardice for committing suicide and be brave enough to tackle it. Let’s not wait for another suicide to become a headline in the news and for another twitter debate.