I know this is the day when pink sappiness overrules our lives and the loveless ones like myself feel rather left out of a celebration we don’t understand much about (hey I have lost count of the number of Valentine-less years I have spent), so I decided to contrast the super-happiness that pervades the world today with some grim thoughts. And what could be more grim than:
Image Credits: The Bards Blog
So I dug up this old study from the BMJ (5) which found a correlation between a spike in the number of parasuicides on Valentine’s Day as compared to other days. To be completely honest, they did find a spike on Christmas as well. Here is what their data says:
Between 1983 and 1988, the authors sought data from one A&E unit in each of Central, South and West Birmingham health districts on two “case” days, Valentine’s Day and Christmas and two control days. 7th February and 15th August. The latter, interestingly, is also the Indian Independence Day. Notably, parasuicide rates are the lowest on Indian Independence Day. So, in the true spirit of data distortion, let me go ahead and pronounce a protective effect of the Indian Independence Day against parasuicide!
So what does Parasuicide mean? Let us take a look at what the omniscient Wikipedia has to say:
Parasuicide refers to suicide attempts or gestures and self-harm where there is no result in death. It is a non-fatal act in which a person deliberately causes injury to himself or ingests any prescribed or generally recognised therapeutic dose in excess. The term was first coined in Edinburgh by Norman Krietman .
Understandably, it is a public health issue of a lot of interest since it is known that parasuicide is the strongest predictor for a successful future suicide attempt. (2) There is another school of thought that tends to overestimate parasuicide to include failed attempts at suicide keeping in view the fact that it is an extremely sensitive issue that needs close observation and follow up since almost half of successful suicide attempts are preceded by recent to remote attempts at suicide or parasuicide. (3) It differs from self harm mainly in the aspect that self harm, usually “cutting”, is done to release a subjective feeling of “unbearable emotions, a sensation of unreality or feelings of numbness by injuring their body”. (Wikipedia) However, parasuicide or suicide attempts are taken to be a cry for help, indicating a deep seated depression and more importantly, suicidal ideation, which needs to be attended to on a priority basis. This is rendered more important by that fact that 1% of parasuicidees will successfully attempt suicide within a period of 2 years. (4) That is a lot of preventable deaths. (Please don’t drag me into the ethics debate about why a person should not be allowed to commit suicide, because this post is not about that!)
Anyways, now coming back to the British study (5) that fulfills my morbid fantasies.
I hope this flowchart is visible after enlarging it. I am not sure if the quality is up to the mark but I guess you get the general idea!
The study is obviously biased by the fact that it was a hospital based study when it should ideally have been a community based one, because a lot of non-fatal attempts would not have gone to the hospital on the same day. It is also likely that there maybe a bit of etiological overlap since not all the history were taken in as much depth as to incriminate an emotional turmoil directly related to a Valentine’s Day specific or Christmas specific issue.
But all said and done we all know what a heartbreak feels like and personally speaking, I know how far deep down into the dumps unrequited love can make you feel, so the logical jump from rejected Valentine’s day proposals to a suicidal gesture is not a large one.
Though the numbers are significantly higher, the question is, do we need a special, goal directed public health and preventive measure put in place to prevent what might be an unnecessary trip down a slippery slope. In my opinion, yes, we do, mainly because these suicidal gestures may be the sign to nip in the bud a useless waste of human life.
So, as we can all see, Valentine’s Day is a bit of a heart break all around. And in case the guy or girl you are enamored with turns up their nose at your proposal and jilts you, thereby pulverizing your heart in the process, do not despair. Though you may feel like there is no tomorrow without the girl/guy in question, life moves on.
And in case you are a PYT, do drop me a line, I am free for the evening. Here’s how I plan to serenade you:
No seriously, at least leave a comment.
Happy Valentine’s Day folks!
Image Credits: Demotivational Posters
1. Krietman N., Parasuicide. Chichester: Wiley, 1977
2. Welch, SS (Mar 2001). “A review of the literature on the epidemiology of parasuicide in the general population”. Psychiatr Serv 52 (3): 368–75. PMID 11239107
3. Comtois, KA (Sep 2002). “A review of interventions to reduce the prevalence of parasuicide”. Psychiatr Serv 53 (9): 1138–44. PMID 12221313
4. Semple, David. “Oxford handbook of Psychiatry” 2005.
5. Davenport, S., & Birtle, J. (1990). Association between parasuicide and Saint Valentine’s Day. BMJ, 300 (6727), 783-784 DOI: 10.1136/bmj.300.6727.783