The underlying cause of 70 per cent of suicides is depression. For every suicide, around ten more attempted suicides would have occurred.
M. Chandrasekharan Nair, city-based psychiatrist, speaking to The Hindu, said that a government directive on treating a patient jointly by a general physician and a psychiatrist for every attempted suicide case could perhaps help in detecting depression and bringing down cases of suicides.
The stigma of getting treated by a psychiatrist continues to be the hurdle in people reaching out for support and care for better mental health, said Dr. Nair.
Depression is a worldwide phenomenon and about 30 per cent of patients reaching for primary care and specialty care have this problem, he said. However, the patients never realise it nor are the treating physicians oriented towards understanding depression in patients.
Intervention at the right time can help morbidity and mortality of attempted suicides.
The attempt is actually a call for help which goes unnoticed, Dr. Nair said.
There are various socially accepted reasons that people attach for suicides — like failure in examinations or broken relationships. Depression hides behind a mask of bodily symptoms like abdominal pain or other body pains and when investigated they reveal nothing, he said.
He said that it is purely lack of awareness on the part of the primary care physician that depression goes undetected at these stages.
The Indian Psychiatric Association had been asking the Medical Council of India to include an examination paper in psychiatry in the MBBS curriculum, said the president of the Association, Roy Abraham Kallivayalil.
The World Health Organisation has said that the treatment of mental health should begin at primary care, he said. Unfortunately, the primary care physicians are not trained to recognise such symptoms, he added.
Depression is a disease that can be treated, said Dr. Nair. Expression of depression comes through the brain. Recognising it early and treating it would help prevent suicides.