It's particularly shocking given that suicide is notoriously underreported.“We don’t really know the extent of the problem,” says Roseanne Pearce, a Senior Supervisor at Childline in the UK.Most of my fellow guests worked in the fields of global women’s rights or female health. “I’m not quite sure why we haven't realised this before,” says Suzanne Petroni, a senior director at ICRW.“Maternal mortality has come down so much, which is fantastic,” she says.But at some point in the last decade or so – statistics were last collected on this scale in 2000 - suicide took over.And, according to the WHO’s revised data for 2000, it had already just inched its way ahead of maternal mortality at the turn of the millennium.This is the age at which girls may be taken out of school and forced to devote themselves to domestic responsibilities, forgetting all other abilities or ambitions.
All of these things put them at greater risk of suicide.” In India, says Prof Patel, “female suicide rates are highest in parts of the country with the best education and economy, probably because women grow up with greater aspirations only to find their social milieu limits them.” In Prof Patel’s view, “fifty per cent of those attempting suicide in China and India do not have a mental illness.That’s a major factor behind the fall in the overall death rate for 15-19 year old girls from 137.4 deaths per 100,000 girls in 2000 to 112.6 today. And it has allowed the spotlight to fall, finally, on what has actually been the biggest killer all along: suicide. In Europe, it is the number one killer of teenage girls.In Africa, it’s not even in the top five, “because maternal deaths and HIV are so high,” says Petroni.Sometimes it can mean no longer being allowed out of the home at all. Prof Patel was the founding director of the Centre for Global Mental Health at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine but now spends much of the year in Delhi, where he works for the Public Health Foundation of India.“Indian media is filled with aspirational images of romance and love,” he says.“The ability to choose your life partner is an idea that’s championed by Bollywood.