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Thursday December 02, 2021

Suicides, wars and conflicts

June 30, 2021

The recent report of the World Health Organization, revealing that 700,000 people killed themselves in 2019, was largely ignored by politicians, policymakers and a large section of the global media.

Some news outlets covered the report but it could not find as much space in the vibrant Western media as the quarrels of politicians or gossip related to celebrities. These celebrities who are always ready to serve the global corporate elite did not bother to highlight this issue on their social media accounts nor did they discuss it at any other forum.

The report of the global health body claims that every year more people die as a result of suicide than HIV, malaria or breast cancer or war and homicide – describing suicide as one of the leading factors of death. The report, 'Suicide worldwide in 2019', reveals that one in 100 deaths is caused by this extreme measure. The trend is ruining the lives of young people and according to WHO research, among young people aged 15-29, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death after road injury, tuberculosis and interpersonal violence.

According to the global health body, rates vary between countries, regions and between men and women. “More than twice as many males die due to suicide as females (12.6 per 100,000 males compared with 5.4 per 100,000 females). Suicide rates among men are generally higher in high-income countries (16.5 per 100,000). For females, the highest suicide rates are found in lower-middle-income countries (7.1 per 100,000). Suicide rates in the WHO African (11.2 per 100,000), European (10.5 per 100,000) and South-East Asia (10.2 per 100,000) regions were higher than the global average (9.0 per 100,000) in 2019. The lowest suicide rate was in the Eastern Mediterranean region (6.4 per 100,000).”

The report noted that suicide rates fell in the last 20 years between 2000 and 2019, with the global rate decreasing by 36 percent, with decreases ranging from 17 percent in the Eastern Mediterranean Region to 47 percent in the European Region and 49 percent in the Western Pacific. But it is surprising that such a rate is on the rise in the Americas where it has risen by 17 percent during the same time period. This region also includes the US, the richest country on the earth which means that the horror of suicide seems to be gripping all parts of the globe, playing havoc with the lives of people everywhere.

Despite this grim situation, the WHO notes that not all countries are paying enough attention to this alarming phenomenon. While many countries have an agenda to sell out their national assets to private capital, suppress their people through austerity and come up with a strategy to counter their imagined enemy, most of them seem to have no mechanism to deal with this real enemy that is threatening hundreds and thousands of people across the world.

The WHO notes that only 38 countries are known to have a national suicide prevention strategy, adding that a significant acceleration in the reduction of suicides is needed to meet the SDG target of a one-third reduction in the global suicide rate by 2030.

This problem is so grim that even the US has been unable to tide over this crisis. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, suicide was the 10th leading cause of death in the United States in 2020. On average, 132 Americans died by suicide each day with 1.4 million Americans attempting suicide and 48,344 Americans perishing in the attempt. It was the second leading cause of death for ages 10-34 and 4th leading cause of death for the age of 35-54. The loss was colossal. The center believes that over 950,000 years of potential life were lost to suicide before age 65 while this fatal practice and attempts cost $69 billion in combined work-loss and medical cost in 2015 alone. The prevalence of firearms is fueling this trend of ending one’s life oneself. Such arms accounted for 50.54 percent of all suicide deaths. A myriad of factors forced around 10.3 percentof Americans to think of suicide while this fatal phenomenon affected 54 percent of Americans.

There are certain factors that are beyond human control, but some conditions are created by our blunders pushing people towards a life of misery and disappointment. For instance, suicide ratio is also high among American veterans. Some estimates suggest that it is the highest.

According to Brown University’s Costs of War Project – established in 2010 to account for the loss of lives and taxpayer dollars spent on US wars in Iraq and Afghanistan – an estimated 30,177 veterans and service members have killed themselves over the last nearly two decades, compared with 7,057 members of the military who have been killed in combat. The report reveals the veteran suicide rate per 100,000 people in the US outpaced that of the public.

The report – V A 2020 National Veteran Suicide Prevention Annual Report – reveals the suicide rate of veterans overall and adjusted for age and sex is 1.5 times that of the general population. It notes: “This rate is likely a conservative one because, unlike earlier reports, the V A only counts veterans who were federally activated, leaving out Reservists and National Guardsmen who were not federally activated.” From 2011 to 2020 an estimated 1,193 National Guard members and 1,607 Reservists have died by suicide; data is not available for the first decade after 9/11. Among active duty service members, 5,116 have died by suicide in the past two decades.

It is ironic that the US spent more than three trillion dollars in Iraq and Afghanistan wars, receiving nothing but 7,057 dead bodies of American soldiers besides thousands of wounded whose lives have been devastated because of the greed of a few companies’ owners and war-mongers who are sitting in the power corridors of Washington. Rulers all over the world may be incapable of preventing suicides that are caused by natural phenomena but the US and its allies could have prevented at least these 30,177 veterans’ deaths.

It may sound bizarre to trace a link between wars, conflicts, military spending, poverty and suicides but in reality there is a deep connection between them. For instance, according to a number of studies, most of the global suicides happen in low-income and middle-income countries. Even in the richest countries, it is the people living on the bottom layer of social stratification that are prone to end their life because of extreme poverty.

Wars and conflicts transform people’s lives within no time, creating a number of psychological problems. For instance, imagine just before 2011 most Syrians were leading a normal life but within a few years around 11 million were rendered homeless living under the shadow of bombs and suicide attacks. The same could be said about the people of Libya who had one of the highest living standards in Africa before the conflict tore their lives apart. The conflict in Iraq led to the decimation of around 2.5 million people. Millions other turned refugees within no time.

If we cannot put an end to all suicides, we can at least stop waging wars and conflicts that create death and destruction, causing misery and impoverishment which leads to desperation, prompting people to end their lives.

The writer is a freelance journalist.

Email: egalitarianism444@gmail. com