Rising suicide tenancies in Sindh | By Dr Abdul Razak Shaikh


Rising suicide tenancies in Sindh

RESEARCH indicated that the majority of female suicides were under age 30 and that “domestic problems” were the main stated reason.

These include unemployment, health issues, poverty, homelessness, family disputes, depression and a range of social pressures.

Undesirable life events such as being bullied or losses such as the death of a parent, family history of mental or substance abuse problems.

Describing the data of a five-year study on suicides in Sindh as “unrealistic and grossly under-reported”, speakers at a seminar organised at a local hotel emphasised the need for properly documenting and investigating cases of suicide as well as de-criminalising the offence to encourage its reporting.

They also called for creating awareness of helplines, increasing the number of psychiatrists across the province and a multi-sectoral and district-wise approach to help save lives.

The event was organised by Sindh Mental Health Authority (SMHA) to share and discuss findings of its research on suicides during the period from 2016 to 2020 in Sindh.

It included only those suicide cases which were registered at district health offices and the Police Department.

The programme started off with the Chairman of SMHA, Dr Karim Ahmed Khawaja, highlighting the need for the study and acknowledging support from departments and organisations in data compilation.

Unless we have legislation on suicide prevention, we can’t move forward and pursue this matter effectively, he said, adding that the research team couldn’t find attempt-to-suicide cases as they were not registered.

Suicide statistics in Sindh have set alarm bells ringing in the province, as over 1,300 people committed suicide there in the last five years.

According to statistics, Umar Kot, Tharparker and Mirpurkhas districts saw the most number of suicide incidents in the last five years.

As many as 646 incidents were reported only in these three districts, while the highest number of victims were youth and women. In the year 2019, 160 people lost their life in these three districts.

According to a World Health Organisation (WHO) report, around one million people commit suicide around the world annually, meaning that every 40 seconds, one person loses his life.

As far as Sindh is concerned, Mirpurkhas is the Division where the highest number of suicide incidents occurred in the last five years and 646 people killed themselves with their own hands. Of them, 356 were women and 290 were men.

The Hyderabad Division is the second one with the highest figure in the suicide statistics graph, with a total of 299 suicide incidents, of which 183 were males and 116 were females.

In the Shaheed Benazirabad Division, 181 people committed suicide, of which 106 were men and 75 were women.

In the past five years, 107 people committed suicide in Karachi, including 82 men and 25 women.

In the Larkana Division, 48 people committed suicide, 36 were male and 12 women, while the Sukkur Division had the lowest suicide rate where four men and two women committed suicide.

Seven hundred and two of those committing suicide fell in the age bracket of 21 to 40 years. The most alarming increase in the trend of suicide was seen in 2018.

According to a survey, 81 per cent of those committing suicide belonged to the lower-income group, 18pc to the middle class and only one per cent to the wealthy group of people.

According to the survey, the biggest causes of suicide include poverty, unemployment, ignorance, economic conditions, lack of basic facilities of life, debt and interest, forced marriages, violence and drug abuse.

Experts say emergency steps are needed to check this trend. In the first place, the government should take steps to end poverty.

The government will have to play an effective role in the treatment of depressed people.

The availability of basic health facilities and medicines must be ensured. A media campaign must be launched to introduce people to the colours of life.

Civil society and NGOs will have to play their part in this context. In view of the ongoing situation in society, a call centre must be established for the psycho-therapy of highly depressed people.

Religious leaders will also have to help depressed people. Hospitals and clinics will have to be established for 24-hour services.

To end the suicide trend, the government will have to include a chapter in the education syllabus. And there must be a check on anti-social elements.

Sindh Mental Health Authority under the chairmanship of Dr Karim Khwaja is working hard and initiated a pilot project of suicide prevention at district Tharparker with the collaboration of the Thar Foundation, Engro.

District Heath officer, Department of Psychiatry LUMS and Sir Cowassjee Jehanger Institute to train local health workers to identify the vulnerable patients and referred them to District Hospital and Sir Cowasji Institute Hyderabad.

— The writer is retired officer of Sindh Govt.

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