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Suicide becoming a major public health issue: expert

ISLAMABAD: Suicide is the 15th leading cause of death globally and around 11.4 people per 100,000 population kill themselves every year. Moreover, depression is the most common psychiatric disorder among people who die from suicide.

This was stated by Professor Dr Rizwan Taj, chairperson of the psychiatry department at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (Pims), while speaking at a seminar held in connection with World Mental Health Day.

The day is observed on Oct 10 every year, aiming at creating awareness of mental health problems. This year’s theme was “Mental health promotion and suicide prevention.” The day was first time observed in1992.

Dr Taj said relatives and close friends of people who commit suicide were a high-risk group for suicide due to the psychological trauma of a suicide loss, potential shared familial and environmental risk and burden of stigma associated with this loss.

He said in Pakistan suicide was a major public health issue even though the rate was below that of the worldwide. In Pakistan, it is 1.4 per 100,000 persons.

“This is due to our culture as suicide is prohibited in Islam, social stigma and legal issues, being a criminal offence. Moreover, national rates of suicide are not compiled and there is under-reporting. Suicide ratio in male is 2:1 and mostly by singles. Women who are under 30 and have domestic issues do commit suicide,” Dr Taj said.

He said other reasons behind suicide in Pakistan included unemployment, poverty, homelessness, family issues, depression and social pressures. The common methods of committing suicide are hanging, ingestion of substances and firearm usage.

“In Pims, on an average, we receive five cases of suicide daily and they come with intake of rat pills, drug overdose. They are mostly young women with aged between 20 and 30 years,” he said.

About prevention, Dr Taj said we need multi-sectoral approach such as screening at the primary care level, community mental health programmes such as through LHVs. There is a strong need for a restriction on availability of substances to be used and school-based mental health programmes. There should be awareness programmes on media on crisis management, self-esteem enhancement and development of social skills.

Pims Executive Director Dr Ansar Maxood said suicide is a serious issue.

“I will recommend all medical staff to be alert and take appropriate steps to prevent precious lives from being lost. Pims is committed to implementing high level care in all specialties, including mental health.”

The day activities included presentations by various speakers, role plays, talks on prevention of suicide and implementation of management plans.




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