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Divorcing Can Prevent Suicide for Indian and Chinese Women

suicide in india, suicide in china, unhappy marriages

Indian women often commit suicide because they have no way out of an unhappy marriage.

When I read the news just now that women in India and China who marry young and/or are forced into arranged marriages that are loveless or – even worse – filled with domestic violence are more prone to suicide, I wasn’t shocked. What is important to note is that these suicides aren’t related to mental illness; they’re simply caused by terrible, terrible unhappiness. Another interesting tidbit: Low socioeconomic status and divorce *are* risk factors for suicide in developed countries.

This information comes from a study led by Vikram Patel at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine which was published yesterday in the Lancet. The study notes, “Suicide takes nearly as many young women’s lives in India as complications from pregnancy and childbirth.” Remarkably, suicides in India and China account for 49 percent of suicides in the world. (Perhaps not a surprise given that they are the most populated countries, but still. Wow.) In India and China, “suicide is more prevalent among young women than young men, a trend that is reversed in developed countries.” Erin Gloria Ryan at Jezebel notes, “Chinese and Indian women know more about the world around them than their predecessors, and are yet pressured to participate in a system that doesn’t consider their personal happiness or fulfillment. And getting out, though possible, is tough.”

Ryan says, “Officials in India have suggested that the best way to reduce suicide is restrict access to pesticides (ingesting poison is the most common way young Indians kill themselves) and offer better mental health services. But maybe the best way to keep women alive is to work to foster a world they’d want to live in. And even though it tramples on “traditional” values, that might mean destigmatizing and occasionally encouraging divorce.”

Let’s get real here: restricting poison isn’t going to prevent unhappy, trapped, desperate women from killing themselves, and no amount of therapy a woman goes to is going to change a tyrannical husband. In most cases, couples therapy won’t work, either. Studies show that unremorseful types with personality disorders only learn how better to exploit people in therapy, because it teaches them how to feign empathy and reveals their partner’s weaknesses. There’s only one way out of that hell on earth, and that’s getting out of the marriage. Here’s to hoping women in India and China are soon able to do that through divorce instead of by killing themselves.

Photo via Flickr

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