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January 12, 2019

Suicide remains under-researched topic in Pakistan


January 12, 2019

Islamabad: The number of suicides is continuously on the rise especially among young people and at the same time, suicide is an under-researched topic in Pakistan while basic epidemiological data on national rates are not known as various legal, social, and religious factors make it difficult to collect data and report accurately. Mental health issues are not mentioned in majority of suicide cases and they are only reported on the basis of financial or domestic problems etc.

The most common methods of suicide in our country are hanging, intake of pesticides or firearm. It has been observed that majority of the sufferer ends up their lives in the first attempt.

Chairman Psychiatry Department at Pakistan Institute of Medical Sciences Professor Rizwan Taj expressed this while inaugurating a two-day seminar organised here by the PIMS psychiatry department on suicide, depression, nicotine dependence and ethics.

He said it is of prime importance that prevention and interventions should include suicide assessment if client presents or have underlying depression. Family education and primary healthcare systems can play an effective role in identification and management of depression and can save the person to become a suicide victim. It is also unfortunate that suicide is highlighted in the electronic media both in news and soaps which leads to copycat attempts by vulnerable individuals, said Professor Rizwan.

In the inaugural session, he welcomed the foreign speakers including Dr. William H. McGhee, Professor of Psychiatry at Loma Linda Medical University, USA and Dr. John McGhee, Health Educationist and VP of Medical Trust of Seventh-day Adventists, USA. Professor Rizwan also introduced the programme to the participants which included psychiatry residents, physicians, psychologists and psychiatric nurses.

Topic covered on day one was “Depression and Suicide – A video approach to treatment”. Professor William explained that depression is a chronic, relapsing but treatable disorder. It is the fourth most important determinant of the global burden of disease and is the largest determinant of disability in the world. Suicide is particularly common symptom of major depressive disorder, he said.

Most such patients have at least fleeting suicidal thoughts at some time during the course of a depressive episode, he added while speaking at the occasion. He said specific questions regarding thoughts of suicide are important to ask because discussion with a clinician may decrease the risk of suicide. People including normal individuals and those with mental illness perceive suicide as an option to overcome interpersonal, family and financial stress. Healthcare providers should place greater emphasis on educating the general public regarding the policies and services available for suicide prevention, he said.

He further stated that psychiatry, not being an “exam subject” is ignored by the average medical students. It is no surprise that when confronted with a patient with unexplained medical and psychological symptoms or even a condition like drug abuse, the new young doctor is more comfortable to look the other way. The validity of the major depression category is controversial. There is a need to focus more on the context of depression including stress, coping and support and to reduce the medicalisation of distress, he said.

Professor John enlightened the audience about depression and suicide prevention through a video presentation. Activities were assigned to the participants in groups for discussion. On day two, lectures including “The Psychotropic Solution for Nicotine Addiction”, followed by a video presentation and “The Devil Made Me Do it – Ethical Problem we Face” were delivered.

The foreign speakers emphasized on application of core Ethical Principles of Bioethics in medical practice. They added that clinical ethics is seldom a matter of deciding between what is right versus what is wrong, rather it involves finding the better, more right, and more reasonable solutions out of several options.

The Executive Director PIMS Dr. Amjad Mehmood welcomed the participants in a meeting and appreciated their efforts saying that he would look forward to receive their feedback on mental health services for improvement and enhancement.

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