In a unique initiative in the medical history of Pakistan to address the challenges of mental health illness, a report launched on Monday, which revealed that 60 percent of the suicide victims in Tharparkar were teenagers.
The report ‘Psychological Autopsy of Suicide Cases Registered in district Tharparkar’ strongly recommended the abolition of section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code by decriminalizing the suicides and urged the introduction of the Suicide Prevention Act.through the required legislation by the lawmakers in Sindh Assembly.
The study was conducted with the technical support of the country’s top Psychiatrists and Psychiatry Institutes and steered by the Sindh Mental Health Authority (SMHA) and financially supported by Thar Foundation whereas Govt of Sindh, health department, district administration of Tharparkar, Liaquat University of Medical and Health Science, Dow University, Sir Cowasjee Institute of Psychiatry provided the technical and human resource support for the program.
The report has also revealed that 24 percent of the victims already had different natures of mental illnesses, while only 9 percent of victims were under a loan burden. According to the report, the age group of the victims 10-to-20 contained 60 percent individuals and 36 percent were in the bracket of 21-to-30 years. Around 45 percent of females and 15 percent males had no formal education, whereas 60 percent females were housewives and 40 percent of victims belonged to low-income groups and were unskilled laborers, peasants, daily wage workers, and small-scale business owners, reads the report.
In terms of method of suicide, the report says 73 percent of victims hanged themselves, while 36 percent had previously expressed the wish to die earlier. The report has also noted that 15 percent of suicide victims had attempted suicide previously before completing suicide with the female to male ratio was 4:1.
The study found that 52 percent of suicides were pre-planned and 48 percent of suicides were sudden and impulsive acts as described by the family members. The month of April and May were crucial during which high numbers of suicide cases were recorded, said the report.
Addressing the ceremony Chairman of Sindh Mental Health Authority, former PPP senator Dr. Karim Khawaja said the results of the psychiatric autopsy had revealed the real reasons for suicide cases, adding that ‘no such study had been conducted across South Asia, which would help to formulate the suicide prevention policies and legislation’
Presenting the report recommendations, Dr. Khuwaja said the government of Sindh must come up with legislation by introducing the Suicide Prevention Act and amending Section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code to decriminalize suicides.“Government of Sindh has to set up an effective surveillance system to documenting suicide cases in suicide death-registration system on priority basis that requires good linkages between health, human rights, police, and legal departments through the development of software with help of specific human-resource to document suicide cases properly in near future,” he added.
The PPP MPA Faqir Sher Mohammad Bilalani said parents and heirs of the suicide victims mostly insisted not to register cases and avoided conducting physical and psychological autopsies. He was of the view that legislation should be introduced to properly investigate suicide cases by police and mental health professionals.
DC Tharparkar Mohammad Nawaz Sohoo said evidence-based policymaking would help to address this challenging problem. He suggested that the mental health professionals should also conduct surveys and studies of the jail inmates, as they must be going through a depression of different nature. DC Thar highly lauded the efforts of all those, who took the great initiative
Dr. Prof. Syed Haider Raza Naqvi of Dow University Karachi said the case study of district Tharparkar had taken a lead in the campaign to prevent suicide cases in Pakistan. “Criminalization of suicide cases is a major impediment to investigate cases to determine socioeconomic and psychological aspects of the cases,” he said.
Mohsin Babbar of Thar Foundation said, the report strongly demanded an extensive mental health service provision in the district, as 76 percent of the suicide victims never consulted mental health practitioners at any stage. ” This is the high time to focus more on this terrible trend to curb the factors which often force people to take extreme steps,” he added and said that the Thar Foundation would continue to support such activities aimed at serving the people of the desert district.