Open Access Pesticide practices and suicide among farmers of the Sundarban region in India

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Background. Deliberate self-poisoning by ingesting pesticides is a serious health problem among farmers, especially in low- and middle-income countries. Preventing these suicides is a priority for a public mental health agenda.

Objective. To examine the role of pesticide poisoning in suicide and nonfatal deliberate self-harm, and clarify awareness of risks, safe practices concerning storage and use of pesticides, and associated self-injury, both unintentional and intentional, within farmer households of the Sundarban region, India.

Methods. Retrospective record review of adult cases of deliberate self-poisoning at the Block Primary Health Centres of 13 Sundarban Blocks was performed to analyze the relative roles of various methods of self-harm and their lethality. Focus group discussions, questionnaires, and in-depth interviews were undertaken in a community study of farmer households to examine pesticide-related views and practices, with particular attention to storage, use, and health impact.

Results. Pesticide poisoning was the most common method of deliberate self-harm in both men and women. Pesticide storage in most households was unsafe and knowledge was inadequate concerning adverse effects of pesticides on health, crops, and the environment.

Conclusions. An intersectoral approach linking the interests of public health, mental health, and agriculture is well suited to serve the collective interests of all three agendas better than each in isolation. Such an approach is needed to reduce morbidity and mortality from unintentional and intentional self-injury in low-income agricultural communities like those of the Sundarban region.


Document Type: Research Article

Publication date: June 1, 2007

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  • Established in 1978, the Food and Nutrition Bulletin (FNB) is a peer-reviewed journal published quarterly by the Nevin Scrimshaw International Nutrition Foundation.

    The focus of the journal is to highlight original scientific articles on nutrition research, policy analyses, and state-of-the-art summaries relating to multidisciplinary efforts to alleviate the problems of hunger and malnutrition in the developing world.

    Food and Nutrition Bulletin's 2012 Impact Factor: 2.106

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