The number of young women between the age group of 15 to 25 attempting suicide by consuming acid is on the rise. According to hospital records more than 6000 such patients were admitted to various government hospitals in Chennai city last year. Nearly 5700 survived. But that's the problem. It's where the tragedy actually begins.
Dr. S M Chandramohan, Professor of Gastroenterology at the Government Royapettah Hospital says, "When they consume acid, they think they're going to die. But they dont die. Its a myth."
Emotionally vulnerable women reach for the cheapest, most accessible option available to kill themselves - bathroom cleaners at home that contain acid. While an acid concentrate in a chemistry lab is enough to kill, diluted cleaning acids stop short. They are potent enough to burn up your innards but not enough to kill you. So most people live but end up destroying their lives.
They are unable to eat, talk or even swallow their own saliva! The entire apparatus from the oesophagus to the stomach is rendered useless. Making these patients eat again, is the first priority for doctors. In fact, Dr. Chandramohan has pioneered a new surgical method to enable patients to do so. He says, "The south Indian stomach is an extremely bulky one because we are traditional rice eaters. This has come in handy - we are able to stretch the stomach right upto the mouth and once they are connected patients can eat again."
I found this solution extremely interesting.
Consuming acid has become such a disturbingly common method of suicide that the Health Secretary of Tamil Nadu is now planning to write to the Drug Controller to request that cleaning acids be made available in soap form.
If ever you're in the presence of someone who has just consumed acid, remember NOT to make them throw it up. That will only re-expose their insides to the corrosive liquid. Give them some water (if they can manage to down it) and rush them to a hospital.