According to a report by the World Health Organization, about 800,000 people around the world die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds. The report further says: “Every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities, and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind.
Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and was the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year-olds globally in 2016. Suicide does not just occur in high-income countries but is a global phenomenon in all regions of the world. Over 79% of global suicides occurred in low- and middle-income countries in 2016.” The WHO further estimated that in 2016, the ratio of suicide in Pakistan was 2.9 per 100,000, i.e. over 5,500 ended their lives in the country that year. The actual number of people committing suicide is, however, much higher than this, as some critics opine.
Who is to be blamed for this quandary? The answer to this pertinent question is socioeconomic pressures, domestic pressures, competitive academic environment, social media, lack of career counseling, peer pressure, nepotism, weak family bonds, professional rivalry, depression, and a dearth of mental health care or a person’s emotional mismanagement.
Young females commit suicide mostly due to domestic problems whereas, in the case of males, this is socioeconomic pressure which leads them to suicide. Students commit suicide for not being able to secure marks they or their parents had expected. Some accomplished young men like CSP officers who are neither unsuccessful nor underprivileged also commit suicide. Then, what forces them to end their lives at the prime of their age and career? This terrible trend is not only disturbing but also raises grave questions about the state of mental health of our youth.
The suicidal inclinations among students in Asian countries like Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong, and others have been reported broadly and are well recognized. Governments in these countries take the issue of student suicides earnestly. Many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) work to support students to deal with stress-related issues. But, the situation in our country is entirely different. Suicide and mental health have never been taken seriously here. Psychological therapy and counseling in schools remain a distant dream. Parenting training is equally ignored.
Here, the first and foremost thing is to understand what causes a youngster to crush his or her life in the spring of youth. Unfortunately, our academic system is result-oriented where an average student stands nowhere. Even for the parents, the grades of their kids are more important than his/her effort and interest. This all is a very traumatic condition for our teenagers. Most of the time, it is the toxic family environment, lack of communication among members of the family which leads one to commit suicide. People show signs of disinterest and hopelessness but there is no one to smell these signs in an individual because they have few friends in real life than on social media.
If we talk about the solution of suicide problem among Pakistani youth, the role of parenting is primary. Parents should be hawk-eyed and must keep a vigilant watch on the activities of their children, especially take care that the child does not fall prey to drug abuse which is closely linked to suicide. Parents should step into their children’s shoes to understand their concerns.
Students should not only be judged based on their results but their interests, attributes, and talents should also be promoted by academic institutes. There should be a friendly environment between teachers and students. Self-help books and emotional management should be the part and parcel of academic curricula.
As individuals, we need to be empathetic so that we may not get involved in bullying and mocking someone consciously or unconsciously because negative behaviour becomes a mental ordeal for some sensitive people who can commit suicide by misjudging themselves as worthless.
Society should not rebuff the emotional growth of young people by using its so-called moral maxim, “Hold in your anger instead of expressing it.” Because when these bottled-up emotions do not get cathartic relief, they become suicidal. There should be a trend of transmutation of negative emotions into physical activities like sports. The concept of traditional community centres should remain intact where people disburden their emotional cargo.
It is the role of print and electronic media to spread awareness about mental health so that people may not feel shy to take mental health care. Mental health should be treated like physical health because, after all, the mind is also as much an organ of the body as our heart, lungs, and kidneys which need cure in case of an ailment. It will be a great public service on the part of the media.
The government must devise unbiased socioeconomic plans to address poverty in Pakistan which is another major cause of suicide. Resource distribution for mental health should be appropriate and judiciously spent on mental health. The customary low trend of suicide due to the influence of Islam in our lives appears to have undergone a fundamental change in Pakistan as this vice has grown into a major public health problem. There is a need for teamwork on the part of the government, non-governmental groups, and public and mental health experts to take up this dare.