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Suicide Conundrum: A La-La Land or Hades of Zombies

saeed wazir1“Brutality and injustice made us raise our hands towards the Gods (society, church and state) for years; God didn’t respond us, but made us just pawns in the hands of Gog and Magog.”Homo Sapiens are described as the crown of creation. Right to life is the most inherent, inalienable right of any individual, and the most important duty of state. Naturally, human beings struggle their utmost to safeguard life, but when it comes to unavoidable circumstances, they either surrender or eliminate themselves ruthlessly and cowardly. Some tricky questions do arise. If death is divinely predestined, why humans being are held accountable for eliminating themselves, in utter insanity,   in the hereafter? Can we equate ending one’s life with act of divine disobedience when we are nothing, but just pawns in the larger scheme of things? The more one think about this, the more it drills into one’s mind something more puzzling and enigmatic.

Hanging, use of insecticides and firearms are the most common methods. The contributory factors include divorce, a new family formation (e.g., step-parents and step-siblings), moving to a different community, physical or sexual abuse, and emotional neglect, exposure to domestic violence, alcoholism in the home, substance abuse, depression, social disorganization, deviant behavior, and uncertainty. Warning signs and risk factors include withdrawal from family and peers, loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities, difficulty concentrating on schoolwork, neglect of personal appearance, obvious changes in personality, sadness and hopelessness, changes in sleep patterns, general lethargy or lack of energy, symptoms of clinical depression, violent actions, rebellion, and drug and alcohol use.

Regretfully, in KP-especially the Southern backward areas- early marriages, arranged (forced) marriages, disrupted familial structures, and narrow, perverse religious interpretation are the most important factors. Insecticides and firearms are easily available and most used tools in suicide cases. Disturbingly, in majority cases, forced marriages have played havoc in this regard. Islamically, the inherent purpose of marriage is perpetuating human life, emotional well-being, and spiritual edification. This is testified by the Holy Quran:” And of His signs is that He created for you from yourselves mates that you may find tranquility in them; and He placed between you affection and mercy. “Why, then, people are tied into marriages without taking their consent and destroying their careers forever?

 Historically, suicide has been a puzzle both to religious and medical practitioners. Emily Durkheim describes four major types. First,’ the Egoistic suicide’ occurs when the degree of social integration is low, people are not well supported in a social group. They feel loneliness, isolation and exclusion which morph into alienation, lack of purpose and self-esteem. Group values and norms hold no importance and rather individualism is at its peak. Typically, generation gap between the older and the younger generations result in suicide in the old.

Second, in altruistic suicide the degree of social integration is too high and people are greatly involved in a group. Group is preferred over individualism. They take their lives for a cause. A good example of this would be a suicide bomber. The terrorist networks like the IS, TTP, Al-Qaeda and other sectarian and nationalist outfits exploit people for furtherance of their corporate interests using suicide bombers or cult suicides. Instead of sacrificing animals, innocent people are propitiated out of deference to God, deities and goddesses.

Third, in anomic suicide there tend to be too low of a degree of regulation. This type of suicide is committed during times of great stress or change. An example of this is when the market crashes or spikes, people who have been sexually abused or psychological brainwashed would commit. Teenagers commit are the major victims. This is much rampant in Pashtun societies.

Fourth, in fatalistic suicide people are kept under tight regulation. They often live their lives under extreme rules and high expectations. These types of people are left feeling like they have lost their sense of self. People who live in very oppressive countries or prisoners would be most likely to commit fatalistic suicide. The tribal system in Pakistan is the prototype example where even a PhD holder cannot even cast his vote and challenge the stereotypes.

The silver line lies in systematic, synergized reforms. This template by JPMS (Journal of Pakistan Medical Sciences) could go a long way in curbing this menace.

(A). According to JPMS, in Pakistan the three most common methods are hanging, ingestion of insecticides and firearms. While hanging is difficult to control, restricting availability of latter two can potentially prevent 50% of suicides. Public education campaigns to promote safe storage of insecticides are needed.

(B). Crisis intervention centers and suicide prevention telephone hotlines, medical centers, community centers, talk groups and telephone counseling play an important role in helping suicidal people, as shown in neighboring Sri Lanka. There is a need to establish such services in Pakistan.  They offer counseling for a crisis situation, and can provide the immediate support an adolescent may need to survive a low point.

(C). To reduce the incidence of suicide in young people school- based interventions, as recommended by WHO Suicide Prevention Strategies should be initiates. These include crisis management, self-esteem enhancement, development of social skills and healthy decision making.

(D). Poverty alleviation and socio-economic disparities be addressed holistically.

(E). Recreation, sports, cultural events, libraries, and dialogue must be promoted.

(F). Resource allocation for mental health is abysmally low and squandered away by corruption and mismanagement. There is need for increased spending on mental health as well as proper utilization of available resources.

(G). Mortality statistics on suicides should be collected through a standard system of registration, recording and diagnosis of suicides, at all town/city, district and provincial levels. Information obtained can be used for epidemiological-analytical, intra-country and cross national studies. A mandatory reporting of suicide mortality statistics to the WHO would improve data collection and surveillance on suicide.

(H). Physicians of the primary health care (early recognition and treatment of depression) should be trained properly to deal with patients.

  • Families should be supportive because the family is the nucleus of all activities in an individual’s life. Interpersonal conflicts and disturbed relations are the main factors for suicide. Family should listen to the victims, build strength by encouraging the person and minimize the conflicts.

( J). Most if not all hospitals should be equipped to handle suicides more effectively such as separate poisoning treatment departments etc.

(K). The media should act in a responsible way and present the problems of suicide by describing what leads to the act and the consequences and negative effects of such an action. As the media has a profound impact on the lives of people.

(L). Government and other concerned authorities should create new infrastructures so that it will provide employment to many of the unemployed people, as unemployment is one of the main causes of suicides.

(M). Vibrant, effective and sincere youth policies should be designed and implemented by the government. At the end I will say, “If Winter comes, can Spring be far behind?”

Writer: Saeed Ullah Khan Wazir

The writer hails from Bakka Khel, FR Bannu. He has a master degree in English Literature from NUML, Islamabad. 



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