September 28, 2017

Raita Chethana

Raita ChethanaGalleryRaita Chethana in NewsDocuments

Download the above video file here

Raita Chethana is an unique initiative taken by DIMHANS, Dharwad, under the aegis of Dr. Raveesh B N and his able team, in collaboration with the University of Agricultural Sciences, Dharwad. The main objective of this initiative was to stem the rising incidences of suicide amongst farmers by identifying psycho-social factors leading to deliberate self-harm and delivering a prompt and an effective solution.

In India two thirds of the population is directly or indirectly dependent on agriculture.  The incidence of suicides have increased from 40,000 in the year 1967 to 110,000 in the year 1999, an increase by 175 per cent. The suicide rate for farmers throughout the world is higher than the non-farming population with India being no exception.

Agriculture plays an important role in the economy of Karnataka, contributing about 28 per cent of the Gross Domestic Product. More than 67 per cent of population is engaged in agriculture. Kharif is the major season of crops and it contributes to about 70 per cent of agricultural production, and balance of 30 per cent comes from the Rabi season. Areas under irrigation are around 24 per cent of the total cultivated area, and thus about 76 per cent of the production depends on rain fed agriculture. But, even if the rainfall is normal, the distribution is very erratic and uneven in most parts of Karnataka.

The phenomenon of suicides amongst farmers in Karnataka has been a recurrent challenge in agricultural sector since 1998. The sudden and alarming spurt in suicides since April 2003 however appears to indicate a new trend and pattern. Farmers’ suicides are no longer a feature of drought prone or the economically backward districts alone, and nor are they occurring only in pockets of high investment agriculture.

There are many contributing factors for farmers’ suicides. Among them,untreated mental illness; Lack of access to mental health services in rural areas; the stigma attached to treatment, and depression arising from exposure to agricultural chemicals/pesticides  increase the risk for mood disorders and ultimately suicide.

Suicides, amongst farmers, is a paramount social issue requiring immediate preventive and corrective actions. Mental health issues of the mentally ailing farmer due to crops failure and associated issues are important to be addressed swiftly. Presently, there exist no specialised programmes or interventions focusing such maladies. The mental health services of the day cater mostly to the urban populace as most of the centres providing it are mostly in cities. Though few patients from rural areas seek and consult the mental health professionals it is mainly for the severe mental illnesses. Farmers who seek help from these centres fall under those criteria. Poor educational status and/or lack of awareness contribute to lack of seeking help for anxiety and depressive symptoms. Thus, by far most of the people residing in rural areas, and farmers, who require support in this regard areas will never have come in contact with such specialised and focused services.

A greater need of the hour is to evaluate the coping strategies of the farmers and strengthening it so that they can bear situations such as drought, loss of crops due to various reasons. Addressing stress faced by these farmers in those testing times will go a long way in reducing the distress and bringing down the suicides in that population. Suicide is preventable and with proper and focused mental health services the suicide among farmers can be reduced.

The Raita Chethana initiative thus was conceptualised and is  since delivering mental health services tailored to farmers helping in reducing farmer suicide/mental health issues in farmers. Mental health services and psychological counseling are instituted to the farmers to cope the stress in a better way.