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October 10, 2019

International day seminar


October 10, 2019

Awareness, increased mental health services suggested to prevent suicides

By Bureau report

PESHAWAR: Speakers at a seminar on Wednesday suggested several steps, including a mass awareness campaign and increased mental health services to prevent the rising suicide incidents caused by multiple factors.

“There should be a mass awareness campaign at different levels through print, electronic and social media to prevent suicides whose tally is going up for socioeconomic and other reasons,” said Professor Dr Khalid Mufti, known mental health expert, who was the main speaker.

He was addressing the seminar arranged by Horizon, a non-governmental and non-profitable organisation, at the Ibadat Hospital, in connection with the World Mental Health Day (October 10).

Psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, academicians, teachers, writers, journalists and police officials attended the function.

Dr Khalid Mufti, who is zonal representative of the World Psychiatric Association, Horizon chairman and a former principal of the Khyber Medical College, Peshawar, said the World Mental Health Day offers an opportunity to draw attention to mental illness and its effects on our lives.

He said this year’s day theme is “Mental Health Promotion and Suicide Prevention”. The theme has been selected because as per WHO statistics, one person dies of suicide in the world in every 14 seconds, which he termed an alarming situation, he pointed out.

Dr Khalid Mufti said the WHO figures showed suicides in Pakistan accounted for 0.9 per cent of the total deaths, adding the media reports and the data collected from the police stations, too, put the suicides around one per cent of the entire deaths.

He said in Pakistan, around 300,000 people were at the risk of attempting suicides and about over 15,000 people took own lives every year in urban areas despite the fact that most suicides can be prevented.

Talking of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, he said a study revealed 326 suicides were committed in in year 2018 alone in the eight districts of the Malakand division,184 women and 142 men. The study is progressing and is a commendable effort by Prof Abdul Wahab Yousufzai of PIMS Islamabad in collaboration with the Malakand police.

He enlisted several causes of suicides or attempted-suicides, but mentioned socio-economic factors, marital disharmonies and a severe depression as the major ones.

“The poverty bomb is among the reasons. People are finding it difficult to meet the household needs. Their domestic economic system is collapsing,” he lamented.

Dr Khalid Mufti said it was estimated that for every suicide there were at least 10-20 Deliberate Self-Harm (DSH) acts.

The speaker said the intra-family relations can be at the low-level of attachment which, in turn, affects the mood of the members who can attempt to commit suicide.

He said there is a lack of proper communication between children and parents. “This is leading to the sense of loneliness among children and they are getting increasingly disappointed,” he lamented and pointed out that at times such disappointment leads to suicides.

The psychiatrist complained that elite and busy people give quality time to businesses, professions or other competitive concerns, ignoring their children.

The expert said school-based-interventions should be introduced, suicide prevention strategies evolved and implemented to reduce suicides in youth. He named crisis management, self-esteem enhancement, development of social skills and healthy decision making and called for training teachers to address the issue. The psychiatrist believed a strong commitment to religion and spirituality could prevent suicides, saying the religion should not be reduced to only rituals. He deplored that depression and other such diseases were considered a stigma and people kept it either secret, or turn to traditional healers instead of consulting the mental health professionals.

Dr Khalid Mufti said rising suicide issue is discussed at different forums. “This is why Horizon interacted with other organizations in the last 5 years, especially the World Psychiatric Association to join hands with it to undertake activities to address the issue,” he added.

The psychiatrist suggested increased mental health care services, appointing qualified multidisciplinary experts at the hospitals, launching free help line, parental counseling and extending economic support to the people by the state who were on the verge of suicide. He called for de-criminalisation of the suicide as it was considered a criminal offence and punishable by Pakistani law and liable to fines/imprisonment.

Dr Samina Said, Nasir Ali Syed from Syndicate of Writers and others addressed the pogramme as well. At the end of the function, some participants were awarded for the contributions. They included senior journalist Hafiz Sanaullah and Hafiz Ulfat.