Mental health needs to be prioritised to save lives
few days ago, a media student from a university in Sindh committed suicide, leaving behind a suicide note and grieving loved ones. In the note, he had mentioned his pain and how tired he felt. No one was to blame for his actions, he had written. His last words were of anguish. The boy terribly missed his mother, who had passed away.
Investigation revealed that the young man from Sindh was a creative, artistic individual and made YouTube v-logs. Unfortunately, the v-logger had been battling depression for some time. Close friends and relatives say that the boy took the grave step out of frustration related to unemployment, ongoing financial crunch and social pressures.
However, this is not a unique case. The boy from Sindh is not the only one who felt safer in suicide. The number of cases each year is rising amongst Pakistani students.
In July 2021, a 25-year-old CSS aspirant had committed suicide in Lahore, leaving behind a suicide note that read, “I am giving up on life. My existence is a burden. I’m nothing more than a failure”.
In May 2021, a 15-year-old boy, had ended his life after being denied promotion to the next class.
In the same month, a final year MBBS student, had hanged himself, leaving a suicide note. He had written that failing in a paper was the reason behind his decision.
According to a newspaper report, a girl from Rawalpindi committed suicide because she was unable to get good grades in exams. On the same day, another paper reported suicide by a student in KP because of the same reason. Another boy left the mortal plane over low grades and asked for pardon from his parents in the suicide note.
A third-year MBBS student committed suicide in a hostel at a medical college in Jamshoro.
According to the Human Rights Commission, ninety percent of those who attempted suicide were mentally disturbed. The real problem as highlighted by these cases, is the lack of attention to mental health at all levels. Our reluctance as a society to admit to this is equally disturbing.
Every other day, leafing through the newspaper, one finds one such case or the other reported in one part of the country or the other.
Around 1,100 students commit suicide each year in Pakistan. According to a report, that tracked the record of suicides among students in Pakistan between 2010 and 2017, hundreds of students committed suicide during the period. Of the students who committed suicide, 42 percent were from schools, more than 23 percent were college-going and 22 percent had been studying in universities.
According to that report, failure in exams was the dominant reason for student suicides.
According to the Human Rights Commission, ninety percent of those who attempted suicide were mentally disturbed.
The real problem as highlighted by these cases, is the lack of attention to mental health at all levels. Our reluctance as a society to admit to this is equally disturbing.
As per WHO, there are some 400 psychiatrists in the country of over 220 million. This means that there is only one psychiatrist for half a million people. So far, the leading causes of suicide have been identified as mental stress and emotional turmoil. It is a pity that we are not ready to acknowledge and talk about a mental illness.
Students face pressure from academic work, parents’ hopes, worries about the future, financial problems, social stagnation and the prospect of unemployment.
The stigma surrounding mental health is the real culprit. For those who take the extreme step, words of consolation or encouragement are not enough. Telling people to toughen up is not the answer either.
Eradicating the problem immediately may be difficult, but over time, the numbers can be brought down through proper measures.
There is an urgent need to set up mental health care units in our educational institutions. Schools should conduct career counselling sessions and make them a regular feature. Parents should provide a friendly environment and space for their children to talk about their problems and worries. Moreover, the society needs to change its perspective about mental health. If the rising trend of suicides among the youth, especially students, is not taken seriously, it could turn into a bigger tragedy. We need to think about whether the lives of our youth will continue to come to an end, with nothing but a suicide note left behind to remind us of their pain.
The writer is a mass communication student at NUML, Islamabad