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KARACHI: Experts at a seminar on the causes and prevention of increasing trend of suicide nationally and elsewhere on Tuesday estimated that two out of 100,000 Pakistanis committed suicide every year, adding that there was no official facility that recorded its figures.

They said over 800,000 people died by suicide annually across the world, representing one person every 40 seconds. The global suicide rate is 11.4 per 100,000 people while in Pakistan, according to a research, it is two per 100,000 a year.

“We still lack the official statistics on the subject and it is high time we need to accept and recognise suicide as a major cause of death,” said Dr Raza ur Rehman, chairman of Dow University of Health Sciences’ psychiatry department at a seminar on ‘Suicide prevention; a global imperative’, organised by Karwan-i-Hayat on ‘Suicide Prevention Day’.

‘Depression was the most common psychiatric disorder in people who died by suicide’

“In Pakistan, we are still dwelling in that era, when people hide the cause of death in case of suicide and mention it as [an] accident, honour killing, violence, etc,” said Dr Rehman.

The audience was told that in 25 countries (within WHO member states) including Pakistan, suicide was currently still criminalised. In another 20 countries suicide attempters could be punished with jail sentences, according to Sharia law, Dr Raza added.

Prof Zafar Haider, consultant psychiatrist, called depression as the most common psychiatric disorder in people who died by suicide.

“Fifty per cent of individuals in high-income countries who die by suicide have major depressive disorder at their time of death. For every one suicide 25 people go for a suicide attempt, 135 people are affected by each suicide death. This equates to 108 million people bereaved by suicide worldwide every year.”

He said suicide was the result of a convergence of risk factors but not limited to genetic, psychological, social and cultural risks. “It is sometimes the result of trauma and loss.”

Dr Uroosa Talib, a consultant psychiatrist, said suicide was the leading cause of death in people aged 15-29.

“Globally, suicide rates among this age group are higher in males than females. Self-harm largely occurs among older adolescents, and globally it is the second leading cause of death for older adolescent girls. In 2012, 76pc of global suicide occurred in low- and middle-income countries, 39pc of which occurred in the South-East Asia region,” she said.

Experts said effective suicide prevention strategies needed to incorporate public health policy strategies and healthcare strategies, restrict access to lethal means, and ensure chain of care and treatment of depression.

They added suicide prevention programmes faced ongoing challenges including insufficient resources, ineffective coordination, limited access to surveillance data on suicide and self-harm, lack of enforced guidelines, and lack of independent and systematic evaluation.

The experts advised people: “This World Suicide Prevention Day and everyday take a minute to reach out to someone, a complete stranger, close family member or friend, and help. This can change a life. The importance of community outreach is very important; our connection could save somebody’s life.”

Published in Dawn, September 12th, 2018