A report on suicides in Tharparkar launched on Monday says more than 60 percent of individuals who committed were teenagers.
The report titled Psychological Autopsy of Suicide Cases Registered in District Tharparkar strongly recommended the abolition of Section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code, decriminalizing suicides and urged the introduction of a suicide prevention law through legislation in the Sindh Assembly.
The study was conducted with the technical support of the country’s top psychiatrists and psychiatry institutes. It was led by the Sindh Mental Health Authority (SMHA) and financially supported by Thar Foundation. The Health Department, district administration of Tharparkar, Liaquat University of Medical and Health Science, Dow University, Sir Cowasjee Institute of Psychiatry provided the technical and human resource support for the program.
The report revealed that 24 percent of the individuals who committed suicide already had various mental illnesses and nine percent were under a loan burden.
According to the report, nearly 60 percent of individuals who committed suicide were between the ages of 10 and 20 years; about 36 percent were between the ages of 21 and 30 years.
According to the report, among the individuals who committed suicide, around 45 percent women and 15 percent men had no formal education.
The report said around 40 percent belonged to low-income groups and were unskilled laborers, peasants, daily wage workers and small business owners. The report says hanging was the method deployed in 73 percent of the suicides and as many as 36 percent of the individuals who committed suicide had previously expressed the wish to die. The report has also noted that 15 percent of these individuals had attempted suicide previously, while the female to male ratio was 4:1.
The study found that 52 percent of the suicides were pre-planned and 48 percent of suicides were sudden and impulsive acts as described by the family members. The month of April and May recorded high numbers of suicide cases.
Addressing the launch ceremony of the report, Sindh Mental Health Authority Chairman Karim Khawaja said the results of the ‘psychiatric autopsies’ had revealed the real reasons behind suicides. “No such study has been conducted across South Asia. It can help us form suicide prevention policies and legislation.”
Khawaja said the government of Sindh must introduce the Suicide Prevention Act and amend Section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code to decriminalize suicides.
“The government of Sindh has to set up an effective surveillance system to document suicide cases. This requires strong linkages between health, human rights, police and legal departments,” he said.
Speaking on the occasion, PPP MPA Faqir Sher Mohammad Bilalani said parents and heirs of the suicide victims did not want to register suicide cases on national databases and avoided physical and psychological autopsies. He was of the view that legislation should be introduced to properly investigate suicide cases by police and mental health professionals.
DC Tharparkar Mohammad Nawaz Sohoo said evidence-based policymaking would help address this challenging problem. He suggested that mental health professionals should also conduct surveys and studies of jail inmates. He also lauded the efforts of those who took the initiative of putting together the report.
Dr. Syed Haider Raza Naqvi of Dow University Karachi said the case study of district Tharparkar had taken a lead in the campaign to prevent suicides in Pakistan. “Criminalization of suicides is a major impediment to deep investigations which determine socioeconomic and psychological aspects of these cases,” he said.
Mohsin Babbar of Thar Foundation said an extensive mental health service was needed in the district, as 76 percent of the suicide victims never consulted mental health practitioners at any stage. “This is the time to focus on this terrible trend to curb the factors which often force people to take extreme steps,” he added.