Badi village, located in the Khargone district of Madhya Pradesh, India has seen its share of death in recent times. The population of this tiny village stands at around 2500 but has reported more than 381 suicides in the last year, with 80 coming in the last three months. No household has been spared and there appears to be no end in sight anytime soon. A combination of superstition, financial turbulence, and clinical depression has collectively contributed to the growing death toll. The local village leader, known as the sarpanch attributes the deaths to a demonic presence in the area while psychiatrists who have been thoroughly examining the area say the suicides are the result of depression and schizophrenia.
Depression is a difficult topic for many Indians to understand in a clinical explanation. If they feel a constant state of unhappiness which cannot be explained by any local source, they attribute it to a supernatural presence; in this case a demonic presence. One of the researchers is associating the toxic climate of the area with the overuse of pesticides. Some years ago, a similar event was observed in China, where a large number of farmers committed suicide. It was later discovered that they all had a very high level of a highly toxic phosphate in their systems which caused a depressive mental state. Once a few killed themselves, others followed suit. As the number of unnatural deaths rise, the level of urgency to understand and correct the problem too rises. At the moment the village has banned alcohol sales.
The locals depend on cash crops for their entire existence and when the crops fail, the entire village is driven into a state of economic misery with, unfortunately, no exit strategy. The loss of hope quickly saturates the entire area and those who feel the early grasp of despair often go to see a local witch doctor before a medical professional as the stigma of a mental sickness is equated with more problems than being financially wiped out. These witch doctors prescribe ineffective treatments which add to the growing problem instead of correcting it. With no hope, and seemingly no “cure” by their preferred treatment methods, it seems as if checking out permanently is the best solution, unfortunately, for many.