Increase in suicide attempt cases irks authorities in Pakistan

By Zoraiz Klasra

Islamabad: A large number of Pakistanis, especially youth, attempt suicide each year. As per WHO estimate, 150,000 to 250,000 people attempt suicide each year.

However experts in Pakistan are doubtful of the figure. Since majority of the cases are not reported to police stations, actual figure may exceed reported figure manifold.

“Debt, economy, Unemployment, limited working opportunities, family disputes and toxic environments at work places/schools/houses, are the main cause prompting people to attempt suicide. It is unfortunate that more people chose to put end to their lives every year,” majority of scholars this correspondent spoke to, said.

Local media reports suggested that suicide rate in students has increased in Pakistan during the past few years. 15 to 20 people end their lives in Pakistan every day. Some motives that act as contributing factors in provoking students to end their own lives are examination stress, fear of failure, verbal and physical abuse by parents, teachers, or peers, feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and being worthless.

Methods for suicides mostly include hanging, gunshot, taking poison, jumping from a height, burn, and wrist cutting. Increased expectations and competition lead to academic stress, depression, and other psychological illnesses among students nowadays.

“Pakistan has no official statistics regarding student suicides. Our society overburdens the children with their expectations that can be life-threatening for them. Recently, a female student of UMT Lahore committed suicide. She was super stressed because of studies and physical exam pressure. One student named Fareed Ahmed killed himself after getting 81 percent marks with which he was not satisfied,” AREEJ JAMSHED wrote in a letter to Editor of widely published The Nation, an English Daily headquartered in Lahore.

According to WHO estimates, there are around 130,000 to 270,000 cases of attempted suicide in Pakistan each year. Suicide is a criminal offence under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) 325 which states “Whoever attempts to commit suicide and does any act towards the commission of such offence, shall be punished with simple imprisonment for a term which may extend to one year, (or with fine, or with both)”. Ironically, Pakistan continues to follow this law which is a legacy of the British Raj, even though Britain itself decriminalised suicide way back in 1961.

According to a report of Dawn, between 2016 to 2020, 767 suicides were recorded in Sindh, as per a five-year research conducted by the Sindh Mental Health Authority (SMHA). The highest number of cases occurred in Tharparkar (79).

“An alarming 60 per cent of the victims were teenagers. In June 2021, the SMHA carried out what it called a “psychiatric autopsy” of the Thar region to determine the “reasons behind suicides”, according to a statement by the authority’s chairman, Dr Karim Khawaja. The findings suggest that the majority of cases involved lower income groups and people suffering from untreated mental illness and poverty,” Dawn has recently reported.

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