Lahore: It’s a view of King Edward Medical College Lahore where students have gathered near a high water tank, and are trying to pacify another student, Shakeel. He is standing on top of the water tank to attempt suicide by jumping down after failing his final examinations. However, his classmates managed to stop him and brought him down.
On April 15, a 16-year-old girl, Laraib committed suicide by jumping off the sixth floor of a local hotel in Lahore after having arguments with parents on a petty issue.
In Peshawar, Suleiman, 14, ended his life by shooting himself in his classroom at Sarhad Grammar School, Gul Bela after being rejected by a little girl.
Farah, the Principal of Sarhad Grammar School, in a telephonic conversation with News Lens Pakistan, said that the boy committed suicide due to intensified depression because of the blatant rejection of his ‘love confession’ by a girl of grade fourth in the same school.
Suicide rate and tendency are increasing in Pakistan for various reasons including poverty, love-affairs and domestic problems.
Dr. Saad Malik, Professor of Psychiatry at Shalamar Medical and Dental College, Lahore, told News Lens Pakistan, “Suicide rate in Pakistan was almost zero 30 years ago, but during the last 20 years, it has escalated rapidly.”
He said, “The escalation of suicide rate is directly linked to the taboos ascribed by society to therapy and psychiatric help.” He further added with despair that the majority of people still label mental illnesses with the taboo of being ‘Pagal’ (literal meaning: mentally insane).
Tragically, suicidal deaths/parasuicides have done little to make the victims’ families consider psychiatric help as a viable option. According to an annual journal published by the Centre for Clinical Psychology (CCP), University of Punjab, less than 25 percent of a 100,000 strong population is partially aware regarding professional therapeutic help in severe circumstances.
Dr. Malik, while discussing reasons for the appalling frequency of suicide rate, said that the breakdown of three main support systems of our society; family institution, close neighboring/community bonding and religious institution has mentally isolated the younger generation. They can neither take refuge in these weakened institutions nor are they fully prepared to adjust to the social institutions of modern society.
A girl, Mannal (name changed to maintain her privacy) who had attempted suicide, told News Lens Pakistan, “My fiancé broke up with me eight months ago. Despite all efforts, I am unable to forget him.”
She continued in a bleak voice, “I feel as if the future holds nothing for me and no one will ever accept me because I am not worthy of acceptance anymore.”
She tried to commit suicide by ingesting dozens of sedatives. Fortunately, her mother found out within a few minutes and rushed her to the nearest private hospital immediately. A stomach washout was administered within 45 minutes.
While sharing her uncertainty about seeking therapeutic help, Mannal said, “I have the desire to seek a psychiatrist but my mother says that ‘he’ will do nothing to help me except prescribing sedatives. She also said that my condition would not improve.”
During an influx of sentiments, she confessed, “If my condition remains the same, I want riddance from this life because I cannot see anything but darkness ahead.”
Neelum Shaheen, a clinical psychologist and private practitioner said, “The overbearing societal pressures like family pressure, bullying, blackmailing and above all, relationship issues leading to sexual intimacy are the leading causes for suicide in both men and women aged between 15-24 years in Pakistan.”
She further explained: “Above all, the imbalance in neurons which requires medication and intensive counseling is a necessity for catering to the rising suicide rate.”
Habib Ali (not real name), brother of Mannal, told News Lens Pakistan, “It is depressing for me to describe what we have been through due to Mannal’s suicide attempt.”
He said, “My parents and I have mutually decided to keep a constant eye on Mannal so that she does not try another attempt.”
Unaware of his sister’s depressive mental state, he said, ‘I am going to take her to one of our family’s peer so that she gets ‘Qalbi sakoon’ (spiritual contentment).”
Dr. Sadaqat Baloch, a senior psychiatrist and Registrar of Indoor Psychiatric Unit-E, said that reluctance in seeking psychiatric help has been observed in more than 70 percent of the patients and their families over the past two years.
He said that percentage of suicidal patient’s consistency in seeking therapeutic and drug assistance remained less than 10 percent during last two years, which is low compared to the frequent cases of suicides and parasuicide observed in the outdoor wards of the hospitals.
Dr Malik, while explaining the extent of reluctance said, “Only 1 out of 10 family members (parents) considers seeking timely treatment for their child.”
News Lens, Pakistan, after consulting the Ministry of Health and National Bureau of Statistics found that no statistical reports addressing the rising suicide rate have been compiled or published lately. There is a lack of any demographic data collection report which analyses the public’s behavior towards mental illnesses leading towards life threatening psychological imbalance, thus prompting the patient to end his/her life.
Neelum Shaheen, told News Lens Pakistan, “Doctors come across complicated suicide cases frequently but sadly, the issue has seldom been taken seriously at a national scale.
“We had initiated a telephonic helpline project under the name ‘Mind Organization’ for suicide prevention in 2009, but it had to be shut down due to a lack of funds by the Government.”
According to the report by Mind Organization, 300 suicidal deaths were recorded from 35 cities of Pakistan during 2013-2015. In 2010, nearly 5000 people committed suicide, says the report.
Moreover, News Lens Pakistan also found that only one comprehensive report by Pakistan’s Ministry of Health in collaboration with WHO was published in 2009 which detailed the mental health situation in the country.
World Health Rankings Report of World Health Organization (WHO) states that the suicide ratio in Pakistan is 9.16 per 100,000 people. The report also states that over 13,377 people commit suicide annually in Pakistan.