Gender, suicide, and the sociocultural context of deliberate self-harm in an urban general hospital in Mumbai, India.
ABSTRACT Recognizing the complementary effects of social contexts and psychiatric disorders, this study clarifies the role of gender in suicidal behavior in urban Mumbai by considering psychiatric diagnoses and patient-identified sociocultural features. The cultural epidemiological approach suggests the critical impact of situational sociocultural factors that complement the customary psychopathological accounts for those who harm or kill themselves. The cultural epidemiology of deliberate self-harm (DSH), it is argued, is critical to planning for suicide prevention, community mental health and psychiatric practice. This study, based on a cultural epidemiological framework, compares male and female admissions for DSH, evaluating conditions with SCID-I and EMIC interviews. We assessed features and narratives of suicidal behavior, patient-identified underlying problems, their perceived causes and triggers. The study included 92 women and 104 men. A diagnosis of depressive disorder was made for 48.9 percent of women and 39.4 percent of men. Many patients (50.0 percent of women and 41.3 percent of men) did not fulfill the criteria for any diagnosis, or did so only for an adjustment disorder or a V-code. Men typically explained DSH with reference to work problems, financial problems and problem drinking. Women typically discussed domestic problems, in-law relations and victimization. Problem drinking affected women living with men who drank. Social and situational factors appear to play a relatively greater role than psychiatric illness in self-harm and suicide in Mumbai, as in other Asian studies, compared with Europe and North America.