IT is unfortunate that the incidence and causes of suicide remain under-researched in Pakistan. That is why a study conducted by researchers at the University of Peshawar on high suicide rates in the Chitral region is a useful contribution. As media reports, human rights activists and isolated surveys have indicated, suicide rates have remained above average in Chitral. Similarly, in Thar, Sindh, suicide rates among young people are higher than in other areas of the province. According to the findings of the above-mentioned study, a total of 176 people in Chitral ended their lives between 2013 and 2019. The research also lends credence to what other observers have pointed out — that more young people and women are taking their own lives than men. Out of those who committed suicide, 144 were between 15 and 30 years old, while 58pc were young women.
However, along with the usual suspects such as poverty and domestic violence, the researchers found an unexpected factor pushing young people to a state of isolation and hopelessness. They discovered that academic failure and high parental expectations were also key factors in driving the youth towards this irrevocable step. It indicates that while goal- and job-oriented education has penetrated the region, social expectations have reached distressing heights. Similarly, because the area’s integration into the national mainstream has not been achieved, the local culture has developed in isolation and now clashes with the goals and aspirations of the youth. Meanwhile, media reports from last year suggest some lowering of the suicide rate among females due to the establishment of women-centric help desks at police stations, but the true impact of this will only surface after a comprehensive government survey. The local administration should ensure that these desks keep functioning so that women can turn to them. The authorities should take valuable lessons from the Chitral study to reorient their social and economic development priorities. True development stems from a change in behaviour, and not merely from an increase in the number of schools, colleges and jobs.
Published in Dawn, August 22nd, 2022