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300,000 People At Risk Of Attempting Suicide In Pakistan

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Peshawar

A well-known mental health expert, Professor Dr Khalid Mufti, has said that in Pakistan, 300,000 people were at the risk of making suicide attempts and about over 15,000 people took their own lives every year in urban areas.

The senior psychiatrist delivered a session at the Haq Baba Auditorium of the Ibadat Hospital, a facility set up by the non-profit organization, Horizon, in the Nishtarabad area of Peshawar. The programme was arranged in connection with World Mental Health Day, which is marked on October 10 every year.

Dr Khalid Mufti, who is the zonal representative of the World Psychiatric Association and has served as a principle of the Khyber Medical College, dwelt on the causes of suicide and how to cope with the issue. He stated that even though deaths by suicide were increasing, such fatalities could be prevented by taking different measures.

Meanwhile, Khaista Noreen, a young clinical psychologist, moderated the proceedings of the event which was attended by psychiatrists, psychologists, academicians, writers, journalists, police officials and people from other segments of the society.

Dr Mufti said that World Mental Health Day has been observed since 1992. He elaborated that the day was meant for worldwide mental health education, awareness and advocacy against the social stigma attached to the issue.

“The day offers an opportunity to the pertinent people to gather at the world level and draw attention to the mental illness and its effects on our lives,” commented Dr Khalid Mufti.

He stated that the day was organised by the World Federation for Mental Health, adding that this year’s day was supported by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the International Association of Suicide Prevention, and the United for Global Mental Health.

The senior psychiatrist said the theme this year was ‘Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention’. He further informed the audience that the theme had been selected because, as per WHO statistics, one person dies of suicide in the world in every 14 seconds, which he termed a distressing situation.

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Dr Khalid Mufti said that the WHO figures showed that suicides in Pakistan accounted for 0.9 per cent of the total deaths, adding that if we added media reports and police data, the number of suicides in Pakistan were almost one per cent of the total deaths in the world. 

Regarding Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, the psychiatrist said that a study had revealed that 326 suicides were committed in 2018 alone in the eight districts of the Malakand division, with 184 of them being women and 142 being men. He added that the study was currently underway and was an admirable effort made by Prof Dr Abdul Wahab Yousafzai of Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences (PIMS), Islamabad in collaboration with the Malakand police.

He also spoke about the causes of suicide, saying that several reasons existed for suicides and attempted suicides, but the major ones were socio-economic factors, marital disharmonies and severe depression. “The poverty bomb is among the reasons. People find it difficult to meet household needs. The domestic economic system is failing,” he noted with concern.

Dr Mufti said it was estimated that for every suicide, there were a minimum of 10 to 20 Deliberate Self-Harm acts (DSH).

Expanding on this fact, he stated that a previous history of such acts was one of the strongest predictors of future suicide and suggested that fundamental psychological issues should be addressed along with medical management of DSH.

The psychiatrist said that intra-family relations can be at the low-level of attachment which, in turn, affects the members’ disposition leading them to suicide attempts. 

Dr Mufti also emphasised on the lack of proper communication between children and parents. He said, “This is leading to the sense of solitude among children and they are getting increasingly frustrated,” adding that at times frustration due to lack of communication leads to suicides.

He also recognised that suicidal tendencies were prevalent among the elite and as well but for different reasons. “They give quality time to businesses, professions or other competitive concerns and ignore their children which later creates problems for them,” he added.

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The mental health professional also called for a mass awareness campaign to be launched at different tiers through print, electronic and social media to prevent suicides.

Dr Mufti was of the opinion that in order to reduce the incidence of suicide in young people, school-based-interventions should be introduced, and suicide prevention strategies should be evolved and implemented. 

He mentioned crisis management, self-esteem enhancement, development of social skills and healthy decision making as ways to deal with the issue. The psychiatrist also believed that training of teachers could help address the issue as well.

The leading psychiatrist suggested a strong commitment to religion and spirituality to prevent suicides. He said the religion should not be reduced to rituals alone.

The expert lamented that depression and other similar diseases were still considered a stigma. He said that those suffering from depression kept the issue under the veil or preferred so-called healers and amulets to mental health professionals, which was not the right approach. 

Moreover, he suggested increased mental health care services, competent staff at the hospitals, a free helpline, parental counselling and extension of economic support by the state to people vulnerable to suicide would aid in improving the situation.

Dr Khalid Mufti called for de-criminalisation of suicide as it was considered a criminal offence and punishable by Pakistani law and was liable to fines and imprisonment.

The mental health professional said that according to Pakistan Penal Code Section 306, a suicide case must be reported to the police and evaluated in the Medico-Legal Center, but these cases go unreported for fear of alleged harassment, complicated legal procedures and social stigma.

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