Suicidal Behaviors among Youth in Pakistan and Prevention
There was a time, when people used to avoid talking about suicide because it is very hard even to imagine“deliberately killing oneself” (World Health Organization, 2012). However, this is something that is not rare to the global society these days. There has been a steady increase in the suicides committed by the youth of the world today. Youth, defined by the United Nations as persons between the ages of 15-24, is the time of life usually associated with energetic days.
World Health Organization in 2012 cited, “Suicide is among the three leading causes of death among those aged 15-44 years in some countries and the second leading cause of death in the 10-24 years age group.”
A similar situation is currently evident in Pakistan. Every other day, news channels are portraying that around five to six suicide attempts have taken place just in Karachi city alone. Ali[i], for instance, hanged himself from the ceiling just because he felt guilty about the financial burdens incurred upon his family due to his medical education, added up by the frustration of being inferior in terms of socializing and adapting with the modern university atmosphere where everyone had personal laptops, wore stylish outfits and frequently bought new gadgets etc.
In the socio-cultural context, the youth populace serves as a great asset for every nation as they play a pivotal role in nation building. They are filled with tremendous energy and towering ambitions which can be utilized in a number of constructive ways. But considering the above stated national plus international data, suicide has become a major public health concern, and is alarmingly affecting the youth of Pakistan.
In Pakistan, the first cause underlying these suicidal behaviors appears to be the low socio-economic status of the country’s masses. The low growth and high inflation, led by a spurt in food prices has increased the amount of poverty by leaps and bounds. If one considers the UNDP definition of poverty i-e. US $ 2 per day or less, then in 2011, nearly 50% population was living below the poverty Line. These disastrous numbers have left a deep mark on the lives of Pakistan’s youth in countless ways.
With the particular focus on young people living in a developing country like Pakistan, they are bound to take the responsibility of producing income for their families. Then, this also needs to be kept in mind that poverty does not affect the youth alone but also their families. Let’s say that when a member of an underprivileged family is seriously ill and there is no capital to seek medical treatment then such a condition would severely hit the adolescent of the family in terms that he would be unable to tackle the situation due to the lack of finance and this would be perceived by him as a big shame. Poverty, ultimately, snatches away the right to a dignified life from the youth.
Poverty breeds several other grave problems like social isolation, depression and anxiety in parents of the suicidal person, negativity in younger siblings and many others. It gradually turns youth to the path of risky behaviors and dangerous crimes because “adolescence is characterized by a strong tendency to experiment with risk behavior.”Another factor predominantly affecting Pakistan’s youth is unemployment.
At a time when abilities in all spheres of life are at their peaks, youngsters feel a potent urge to generate income by making maximum use of their physical and intellectual potentials. However, the poor youngster has little or no access to education, which is fundamental for attaining a respectable employment. There is a famous saying that “an empty or unemployed mind serves as the devil’s residence”. These words imply that when a youngster has nothing productive to perform then his thinking takes a negative path. And so, a time comes when living becomes utterly aimless and eventually suicide turns to be the desired solution of all problems.
Academic and peer pressure is another risk factor for youth suicides in Pakistan. The soaring costs of educating oneself, the competitive nature of getting in and fitting oneself in the ultra-modern environment of academic institutions and the lack of social support system are the significant contributors to the elevated levels of academic and peer pressure. Additionally, pupils studying in academic institutions come from diverse cultural and socio-economic backgrounds. So, competition not only exists on academic level but also on socio-economic grounds as highlighted in Ali’s scenario.
A nurse can play a primary role in suicide prevention not only by assessing suicidal behaviors but also by imparting knowledge about suicide warning signs in the community. For instance, a student health nurse could regularly conduct risk assessments of high risk students. Likewise, the student nurse could also arrange sessions on stress management, personal grooming sessions, and development of social skills and self-esteem enhancement.
Public awareness could also be increased through the distribution of pamphlets, commentaries in newspapers and on television thereby reducing the suicide rates.
The nurse could also act as a collaborator and utilize religious scholars for providing religious insight on suicide condemnation like discussing suicide in Friday sermons where a large number of youngsters gather.
[i] An alias has been used instead of the real name.
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