Allauddin Roomi

CHITRAL: The disturbing trend of suicides, particularly among the youth, is continuing in Chitral, which is a cause of grave concern for parents.

According to a report of the World Health Organisation (WHO), about 5,500 people committed suicide in Pakistan in 2019 and the number was highest in Chitral district of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

After releasing of the report, the KP government sent a team with the help of the Health Department to Chitral which held counselling sessions with the local people. However, the arrangement was temporary which could not be continued permanently. It is a matter of grave concern that despite so many suicides and WHO report about it, the KP government did not appoint even a single psychiatrist in Chitral. Social circles believe that in an area where suicides are so common, the government should appoint psychiatrists on union council level.

Suicide ratio was very high in Chitral in 2019 and this trend continued in 2020. In the last week of September, three girls ended their lives by jumping into Chitral River. A trend of silence over such suicides is also witnessed in the area due to social and cultural constraints.

Different researchers visited Chitral to know the reasons behind this disturbing trend. One such researcher was a professor from Aga Khan University who conducted ethnographic research by spending some time with six families where suicides happened. The researcher found that poverty and domestic violence were the main reasons behind this extreme step. Other causes included depression, no support for girls from parents, lack of education and domestic quarrels.

Unfortunately, mental health is not taken seriously in Pakistan due to which suicide ratio is increasing. Dr Humayun, who is a specialist in mental healthcare at Pabbi Hospital Nowshera, told TNN that mental health is very important, but unfortunately it is being ignored by the government and people due to which the ratio of such diseases is increasing.

Dr Humayun said many people in Pakistan contract stress-related illness due to poverty and joblessness. He said women are also increasingly becoming victim of domestic violence. About Chitral, he said it is an area where poverty and joblessness is common. He said most girls are married off at a very young age without their consent which is also a reason behind depression and then the extreme step of suicide.

Dr Humayun said the government should take emergency steps to appoint psychiatrists in Chitral. He said the government should also hold an extensive awareness campaign including seminars, lectures etc. at schools and madrassas (religious seminaries) and establish a rehabilitation centre to treat the patients suffering from stress-related illness.

A large number of people attempt suicide in Chitral and there are few who survive the suicide attempt. TNN contacted one such woman, Shazia, who once decided to take her own life, but failed. Shazia said some people had hurled false accusation of immorality against her which brought bad name for her family and she was unable to handle the situation despite the fact that her family members supported and trusted her. She said she had informed a friend about her intentions as she was unable to tolerate increasing taunts from people.

Shazia said she is happy and thanks Almighty Allah for giving her a new life. She said her death would have brought further misery for her family. She pointed out that no psychiatrist was available in the area from where she could get treatment.

Shazia said those suffering from depression must share their problems with those who they trust. She said in case of harassment, the victims must take help from law enforcing agencies to punish such people.

“Human life is priceless. It should not be lost with an emotional decision,” she added.