Domestic Violence Could Lead to Suicide


By Dr. Ashoke Priyadarshana – Psychologist

Post-mortem analyses indicate that the patients who have committed suicide by violent means have reduced serotonin levels in the Central Nervous System. This is the reason for the possible biological changes that could occur in a person who wants to take his or her life. There is no shortage of people committing suicide in the world; but in Sri Lanka, the rate seems relatively on the increase in comparison to some other countries. Although Sri Lanka is not ranked on top at present, still the number of cases reported is relatively high. Psychologically analysing, suicide is closely linked with depression, and it is theoretically said that individuals with severe depression are more prone to commit suicide. As indicated at the beginning, there are biological changes in human beings who tend to commit suicide perhaps due to a low level of serotonin, epinephrine, dopamine and other related neurotransmitters. These biological changes occur in patients suffering from severe depression.  Patients suffering from depression should be detected early because treatment could save their life without it getting out of hand. Depression is not unfamiliar because every human being is susceptible to this mental disorder.

I have written many psychological discussions on ‘depression and suicide as a psychologist, yet my focus of attention this week is towards the correlation between domestic violence faced by women and their tendency to commit suicide. More research in the field is needed, but it should not be said that valid research has not been done in this regard, but causes identified after research should be well-addressed to minimise the effects.

Prtyusha Banerjee is an Indian actress who was found dead hanging herself from the ceiling fan recently. A panel of doctors from the forensic department said the death was due to asyphyxia. Although it was suspected to be a suicide case her boyfriend is reported to have been booked for abetting the suicide of his girlfriend. Prthyusha’s mother endorsed that her daughter had been tortured by her boyfriend. According to her friends, Rahul (boyfriend) had caused injuries. Investigations in this regard are in progress.

There is scientific evidence that females are more susceptible to depression than males. On the other hand, females being tortured psychologically and physically would result in mental illnesses such as depression. Unfortunately, there doesn’t seem to be a proper mechanism to detect females with depression domestically; yet females undergoing domestic violence could be guarded. According to ‘DOMETIC VIOLENCE AGAINST WOMEN AND GIRLS’ published by the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in 2000 reveals that some females suffer due to physical, sexual, psychological and emotional abuse. It has also been identified that the correlation between domestic violence and suicide is significant in countries such as the USA, India, Fiji, Papua New Guinea and Sri Lanka.  A female who has been abused by someone is likely to commit suicide and is 12 times greater than someone who has not been. Females between 15-24 years committing suicide were 55 times greater than the deaths reported due to pregnancy and childbirth.

The correlation between domestic violence and suicide is significant according to research; but still, there can be lots of depressed females in the country who have been victims of domestic violence. Their voice over injustice cannot be heard due to many barriers.  Depression is associated with one’s mood; hence, it is understood as a mood disorder. As outsiders, it is not advisable to mute yourself against domestic violence. Whenever you witness an incident taking place, you should not hesitate to inform the respondents because it could be a life-saving act. If you are a victim of domestic violence, it is needed to consult a psychiatrist or a psychologist first (a professional who has time to listen to you) because consultation itself helps you calm yourself down and think of future actions. Then, there are well-reputed mental health institutions and government organisations that are sought to help you. It is inadvisable to suppress your bitter experiences and disturbing thoughts since they could blast you at any moment. You need professional assistance to express your disturbing feelings and emotions rather than sharing them with a friend.

It is clear the relationship between domestic violence, depression and suicide. Theoretically explaining, women are more susceptible to depression due to two main reasons; the first reason is they are physiologically different, and the other reason is they seem to be psychologically different due to certain cultural expectations. Females are expected to express their emotions in cultural settings and it could be socially acceptable for them to be depressed. It should not be forgotten the bulk of tasks that a female does at the seeking domestic level in the local context; perhaps, their endurance could be misinterpreted. In Sri Lanka, there are countryside’s where women are still being under immense pressure due to domestic violence; yet they are unable to raise a voice against violent acts.

Observable and reported signs and symptoms are taken into account by psychiatrists and psychologists in diagnosing the person’s psychological disorder. There are medications and psychotherapies for depression. For instance, anti-depressants are used by psychiatrists to increase the functional capacity of dopamine, serotonin and other related neurotransmitters.  Psychotherapies are said to be effective in addressing depression too; but the issue is detecting this disorder before it gets worse. According to Garland and Zigler (1993), they say that committing suicide is a sequence; but not a spontaneous act. Therefore, suicidal ambivalences could be detected by those who are around.

Individuals who are driven by suicidal thoughts might perform nonlethal self-inflicting methods to convey their intention for suicide. There is a common notion that the ones who threaten to kill themselves will hardly commit suicide, but this notion has been falsified by research because more than 40 per cent had communicated their suicidal intention clearly and another 30 per cent had mentioned death and suicide before their last effort. It has also been found that 50 per cent of those individuals had not met a single mental health professional in their lifetime.

Suicidal attempts are made when the person is alone, depressed and unable to perceive the matter objectively.  There can be lots of socio –cultural factors affecting a male or a female to be depressed and victimized by suicidal thoughts; but as research indicates females are more susceptible in comparison to males. Besides, being mute before domestic violence could drag her into a gloomy world where she would not find any options except suicide. Causes can be preventable, socio-cultural but it might take a long period to eliminate socio-cultural factors. Outsiders including relations and neighbours should be attentive if someone is at risk of committing suicide. Suicidal ambivalences should be tracked by them and it is needed to take the person into a mental health professional for further treatments.  When a person gets depressed, he or she deviates from his day-to-day functions. The person becomes less interested in being involved in regular activities that he or she had been dealing with. Their less interest in personal hygiene, social relationships and recreational activities could be a sign of depression. In such situations, outsiders should be alert.

There are lots of unreported cases in relation to domestic violence in the country, but the pathetic incidents faced by the victims are yet to be uncovered. It could be assumed that depression could prevail if they are affected by domestic violence; therefore, others should be attentive at least to detect females suffering from psychological issues such as depression. The message should be conveyed to every nook and corner in the country because otherwise these psychological discussions will only reach a limited number of persons in the country.