(If you feel suicidal or know someone in distress, please reach out to them with kindness and call these numbers of local emergency services, helplines, and mental health NGOs.)
"Depression and suicide, especially among the youth, IS NOT a laughing matter."Priyanka Gandhi Vadra
"We would hear a joke in our childhood. There was a professor whose daughter died by suicide. She left a chit saying, 'I am tired of life. I will jump into the Kankaria lake.' When the professor woke up in the morning, he was very angry. He said, 'I am professor and have worked hard for so many years but even now she has spelt Kankaria wrong."
Following the PM's 'joke', the crowd, including media dignitaries, erupted in laughter. However, Modi drew flak on social media for being insensitive.
"The Prime Minister and those laughing heartily at his joke ought to educate themselves better and create awareness rather than ridicule mental health issues in this insensitive, morbid manner."
'Insensitive Disregard For Human Life': Politicians React
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also took to Twitter to say that thousands of families lose their children to deaths by suicide and the PM shouldn't be making fun of them.
The Aam Aadmi Party's official handle also tweeted remarking that this was "insensitive disregard for human life" by the PM. Shiv Sena UBT leader Priyanka Chaturvedi too cited National Crime Records Bureau data to call Modi out.
On the other hand, Samajwadi Party leader Gaurav Prakash cited a report by The Quint to make the point that "suicide is not a laughing matter."
Why Suicide Is Really Not a Joke
According to the NCRB, India reported 1,64,033 cases of deaths by suicide in 2021. This was an increased number from 2020 when 1,53,052 cases were reported, and from 2019 as well, when 1,39,123 cases of deaths by suicide came to light.
If you look closely at the 2021 figures, 34.5 percent of those cases were from the age-group of 18-30 years and another 31 percent belonged to the 30-45 years age group.
Out of these 1,64,033 cases, 45,026 were women. This meant that one woman in India died by suicide every nine minutes in 2021.