In the Pakistani culture, we often pride ourselves on our strong family structures and prioritise family above all else, including individual freedoms and ambitions. Unfortunate, then, is the recent report by the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan detailing that 44 per cent of all suicides in Pakistan last month took place due to some family-related crisis. Another reason cited for suicide was financial trouble. However, the most perturbing aspect of this report is that a total of 174 suicides occurred just in the last month. Based on the report, the person most likely to commit suicide is a male between the ages of 16 and 35, living in Punjab. Fortunately, help arrived in time to save an additional 58 persons who attempted to take their own lives.
The great incidence of suicide and attempted suicide across Pakistan needs immediate attention. Now is the time to spread awareness on suicide prevention as these statistics cannot be ignored. While 74 per cent of those who committed suicide were men, it should be mentioned that middle-aged South Asian women are at high risk of depression, which can result in suicide. We must highlight the mental health factors that can lead to suicide for both men and women and work towards alleviating them. While mental health professionals can play a major role in this regard, each citizen — friend, parent, teacher, counsellor and coach — should be aware of the signs that indicate a person is contemplating suicide, to immediately seek help for the person identified to be at risk. Conversely, we must encourage people to seek psychiatric help if they feel they need it. As citizens, we must also work to eliminate the stigma revolving around mental health as it might one day become a matter of life and death, such as it did for these 174 people in the past month, and another 58 people who attempted suicide.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 24th, 2013.