May 14 : Suicide cases, while not uncommon and certainly not a new epidemic, are increasing in numbers in Pakistan, as noted by doctors and health professionals. Unaddressed mental health issues seem to be the driving force behind the spike in suicide case numbers.
Resident doctor at National Poison Control Centre(NPCC), Dr. Muhammed Junaid Mahboob, says at least 15-20 people are admitted everyday due to consuming poison with the intention of killing themselves. This number is significantly higher on weekends, the doctor notes. He further adds that there is 98% chance of surviving after internal poisoning, although this also depends on the type of poison, amount consumed and time taken to reach hospital.
Loneliness, family quarrels, domestic violence and interpersonal relationships seem to be the most common reasons for poisoning.
The NPCC, established with the help of World Health Organization, treats cases of intentional and accidental poisoning.
Following routine, all suicide patients are recommended to a psychiatrist but Dr. Mahboob states that not many seek help nor do they accept that they need professional help.
It is imperative to address these underlying issues which can otherwise lead to vulnerability and further suicide risk after the attempted suicide, says Dr. Mahboob.
Dr. Murad Moosa adds to this by stating that people are at increased risk within the first six to twelve months of the suicide attempt. Dr. Moosa is the president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and professor at the Department of Psychiatry, Aga Khan University.
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention states that there is no one cause for for suicide. A large number of suicides occur when hopelessness, health issues and other feelings of despair combine to create suicide ideation or suicide itself.
CEO of Psychiatric helpline Talk2Me, Adeel Hijazi Chaudhary explains that most women who call their helpline suffer from self-doubt after lack of validation from their loved ones. One’s own thoughts rather than chemical changes in the brain leads to suicide as the person feels like they do not have solutions to problems or control over their thoughts.
Depression is one of the leading risk factors of suicide along with other mental disorders like Bipolar Disorder and Schizophrenia, according to Dr. Iqbal Afridi, dean of Jinnah Postgraduate Medical and Dental Centre’s (JPMC) Psychiatry and Behavioural Sciences Department.
WHO Global Health Estimates 2016 reveals the suicide rates in Pakistan to be 2.9 per 100,000 population in 2015 and 2016, although the actual magnitude of the issue seems to be under researched. Since Pakistan is one of the few countries to make suicide a criminal offence, a large number of suicides go unreported.
With less than 500 qualified psychiatrists in the country, and most of them concentrated in urban areas, the better part of the population go without seeking professional help. The cost of travel and medical expenses also contribute to the list of reasons why people do not consult psychiatrists.
Mental health helplines are an helpful alternative where people can talk to someone without compromising on confidentiality.
Talk2Me is one such organization in Pakistan that is free of cost and dedicated to free mental healthcare.
Baat Karo-Talk Because We Listen is another online initiative that helps people deal with mental illnesses.
Besides these, Taskeen(NGO) and Aman Foundation also play an important role in promoting mental health and raising awareness towards mental healthcare.