By: Hina Qamar
Between 15 to 35 people end their lives in Pakistan every day.
That’s as high as one person every hour.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that in 2012, the rate of suicide in Pakistan was 7.5 per 100,000 people. In other words, around 13,000 people killed themselves that year.
In 2016, the estimate was 2.9 per 100,000 i.e. over 5,500 ended their lives. Experts say the number of people dying is likely somewhere between the two figures, but the truth remains hidden.
This project hopes to end the silence by giving those who have suffered space to share their stories; by providing expert commentary and by providing access to a few resources the country has to offer those seeking help.
The content that follows contains stories of suicide and suicide attempts, which may trigger some readers. Please proceed with caution and contact your mental health advisor in case of a crisis.
To better understand the trends and context surrounding suicide in Pakistan, Dawn.com published an online survey in December 2018, asking respondents to anonymously share their views and stories about suicide. The non-scientific survey was published on the website and shared on social media, reflecting views of a segment of Dawn.com’s readership, as captured in the respondent demographics outlined below.
The responses — 5,157 in total — provide a unique starting point to exploring the issue.
A few findings include:
38% of respondents said they personally know someone who has taken their own life.
43% said they personally know someone who has attempted suicide.
45% said they have thought about suicide but never acted on it.
9% said they have tried to end their lives.
1- RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHICS;
A majority of those who took the survey are between 18-40 years old, male (72%), and from the three major cities.
2- TO WHAT DEGREE MIGHT THE BELOW CAUSES LEAD SOMEONE TO COMMIT SUICIDE?
Over half of respondents considered mental illness and financial troubles as ‘high likelihood’ reasons for suicide. Divorce was seen as having the lowest likelihood of resulting in suicide. WHAT
3- WHAT BARRIER PREVENT A SUICIDAL PERSON FROM SEEKING HELP?
The two barriers to seeking help that ranked highest are, ‘Feeling like nothing will help’ and, ‘Lack of social support’, followed closely by, ‘Embarrassment or social stigma’.
Methods of suicide:
It is estimated that around 20% of global suicides are due to pesticide self-poisoning, most of which occur in rural agricultural areas in low- and middle-income countries. Other common methods of suicide are hanging and firearms.
Knowledge of the most commonly used suicide methods is important to devise prevention strategies which have shown to be effective, such as restriction of access to means of suicide.
Prevention and control:
Suicides are preventable. There are a number of measures that can be taken at population, sub-population and individual levels to prevent suicide and suicide attempts.
reducing access to the means of suicide (e.g. pesticides, firearms, certain medications);
reporting by media in a responsible way;
introducing alcohol policies to reduce the harmful use of alcohol;
early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders, chronic pain and acute emotional distress;
training of non-specialized health workers in the assessment and management of suicidal behaviour;
follow-up care for people who attempted suicide and provision of community support.
Suicide is a complex issue and therefore suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labour, agriculture, business, justice, law, defense, politics, and the media. These efforts must be comprehensive and integrated as no single approach alone can make an impact on an issue as complex as suicide.
Challenges and obstacles:
Stigma and taboo
Stigma, particularly surrounding mental disorders and suicide, means many people thinking of taking their own life or who have attempted suicide are not seeking help and are therefore not getting the help they need.