By Atika Rehman | Jahanzaib Haque
Between 15 to 35 people end their lives in Pakistan every day.
That’s as high as one person every hour.
The World Health Organisation (WHO) estimated that in 2012, the rate of suicide in Pakistan was 7.5 per 100,000 people. In other words, around 13,000 people killed themselves that year.
In 2016, the estimate was 2.9 per 100,000 i.e. over 5,500 ended their lives. Experts say the number of people dying is likely somewhere between the two figures, but the truth remains hidden.
This project hopes to end the silence by giving those who have suffered space to share their stories; by providing expert commentary and by providing access to a few resources the country has to offer those seeking help.
Trigger warning: The content that follows contains stories of suicide and suicide attempts, which may trigger some readers. Please proceed with caution and contact your mental health advisor in case of a crisis.
To better understand the trends and context surrounding suicide in Pakistan, Dawn.com published an online survey in December 2018, asking respondents to anonymously share their views and stories about suicide. The non-scientific survey was published on the website and shared on social media, reflecting views of a segment of Dawn.com’s readership, as captured in the respondent demographics outlined below.
The responses — 5,157 in total — provide a unique starting point to exploring the issue.
A few findings include:
38% of respondents said they personally know someone who has taken their own life.
43% said they personally know someone who has attempted suicide.
45% said they have thought about suicide but never acted on it.
9% said they have tried to end their lives.
- RESPONDENT DEMOGRAPHICS
A majority of those who took the survey are between 18-40 years old, male (72%), and from the three major cities.
- DO YOU PERSONALLY KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS TAKEN THEIR OWN LIFE?
38% of total respondents said they knew someone who has taken their own life.
- DO YOU KNOW SOMEONE WHO HAS ATTEMPTED SUICIDE AND SURVIVED?
Over 40% said they knew someone who had survived a suicide attempt.
- HAVE YOU EVER TRIED TO END YOUR LIFE OR THOUGHT ABOUT ENDING YOUR LIFE?
Respondents were evenly divided between those who have tried or thought of suicide, and those who have not. An additional 9% said they have tried to take their life.
- HAS SOMEONE EVER SPOKEN TO YOU ABOUT HAVING SUICIDAL THOUGHTS?
45% said they have had someone speak to them about feeling suicidal.
- TO WHAT DEGREE MIGHT THE BELOW CAUSES LEAD SOMEONE TO COMMIT SUICIDE?
Over half of respondents considered mental illness and financial troubles as ‘high likelihood’ reasons for suicide. Divorce was seen as having the lowest likelihood of resulting in suicide.
- WHICH OF THE BELOW DESCRIBE YOUR OPINION OF SUICIDE? SELECT ALL THAT APPLY.
A low 8% of respondents considered suicide an immoral act. However, almost a quarter considered it a sign of weakness. The most common opinion was that suicide is, ‘A way to escape pain’.
- WHAT BARRIERS PREVENT A SUICIDAL PERSON FROM SEEKING HELP? CHECK ALL THAT APPLY.
The two barriers to seeking help that ranked highest are, ‘Feeling like nothing will help’ and, ‘Lack of social support’, followed closely by, ‘Embarrassment or social stigma’.
- PLEASE SELECT ALL THAT APPLY: SEEING A MENTAL HEALTH PROFESSIONAL IS…
The most common opinion from the statements is that seeking professional help is, ‘Not accessible for most people’.