Lebanon ignoring suicide rate, doctors warn

Lebanese doctors call for more to be done to help young men and women who are contemplating taking their own lives. (Shutterstock)
Updated 20 February 2018
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Lebanon ignoring suicide rate, doctors warn

BEIRUT: Lebanon’s suicide rate is under-reported because of cultural and religious stigmas surrounding mental health issues, say doctors.
Addressing a specially convened seminar on Saturday, doctors questioned official statistics that place the number of suicides in Lebanon at well below the regional average. They called for more to be done to help young men and women who are contemplating taking their own lives.
Dr. Elie Karam, head of the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRAAC), which co-organized the conference, told Arab News that several factors were causing the suicide rate to go under-reported.
“The person who commits suicide may not leave any signs of the suicide attempt, so it may look like an accident. On the other hand, the person who discovers the suicide may hide this fact, or the author of the accident report may not mention the word ‘suicide.’ We must not forget that insurance companies do not recognize suicide victims,” he said.
The conference, entitled “Suicide in Lebanon: Where are We?” was attended by guest speakers including psychiatrists, judges, clerics and government officials.
Recent World Health Organization figures suggest there were 3.1 suicides per every 100,000 people in Lebanon during 2015, well below the regional average of 3.8. This compared with 3.4 in Saudi Arabia, 3.8 in Iran, 6.5 in Bahrain, 8.2 in Yemen and 10.2 in Sudan.
However, Lebanon, like much of the wider Middle East, is a deeply religious society, and delegates at the seminar said there was a reluctance to address the true scale of the problem in the country.
Islam teaches that suicide as a sin and the Catholic church also warns against it, meaning many Muslims and Christians are often wary of addressing the causes of the issue. This has left many Lebanese feeling they have nowhere to turn to for help when contemplating taking their own lives, delegates said.
In one case highlighted by a judge at the seminar, a young Lebanese man posted a short suicide note on Facebook saying “Farewell, my loved ones” and declaring that “I cannot take it anymore.” He received two likes and 15 comments in response, before following through on his post and killing himself.
Karam said causes of suicide ranged from depression and anxiety to “traumatic incidents in childhood”. He referred to a 2008 IDRAAC study that found Lebanese men had more than double the risk of suicide compared with Lebanese women. Suicidal thoughts are particularly common among youths, rather than adults, he said.
The government has made recent moves to tackle the cultural stigmas around mental health and suicide. Last September, it co-launched a national telephone helpline, believed to be the first of its kind in the Arab world.
Speaking at the seminar on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Hilda Harb said the government is also trying to improve the way causes of all deaths are recorded and digitally logged.


Council of Arab Interior Ministers calls for cooperation to alleviate suffering of terrorism victims

Updated 23 April 2019
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Council of Arab Interior Ministers calls for cooperation to alleviate suffering of terrorism victims

  • Mohammed bin Ali Koman says the situation requires the cooperation of all to alleviate the suffering of the victims and their families
  • He was commemorating Arab Day to raise awareness of the pain of victims of terrorist acts

TUNIS: Not only does the harm caused by terrorist crimes affect innocent victims, it also leaves their families and communities with psychological and social pain, the Secretary-General of the Council of Arab Ministers of the Interior has said.

This situation requires the cooperation of all to alleviate the suffering of the victims and their families and help them overcome their predicament, Dr. Mohammed bin Ali Koman said.

Koman was commemorating Arab Day to raise awareness of the pain of victims of terrorist acts, held every year on April 22 by the General Secretariat of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, member states and the League of Arab States.

“Today is an opportunity to raise awareness of the pain and tragedies of victims of terrorist attacks and encourage all initiatives undertaken by official bodies and civil society organizations to alleviate their suffering,” he said.

“The effects of terrorist crimes have exceeded aggression against human lives and property to psychological and social impacts as well as affecting families,” he said.

“Terrorist crimes result in a continuous bleeding to the heart of affected communities, especially with the terrorist media being devoted to inspiring and promoting their criminal operations, which have affected thousands of victims, including children, women and the elderly.”

He hailed the efforts of the security services in their fight against terrorism and the great improvement in reducing its crimes in recent years, expressing his sympathies for the victims and his support for their families to overcome the aftermath of these crimes.

Koman stressed that the Council of Arab Interior Ministers has taken special measures to raise awareness about the pain of victims of terrorist acts, including the development of media programs to raise security awareness and improve citizens’ contribution to countering terrorist acts in implementation of the Arab counter-terrorism strategy. This was in addition to assigning the Arab bureau for security-related information activities, which operates under the General Secretariat of the Council of Arab Interior Ministers, to prepare media programs and materials to raise awareness about the dangers of terrorist acts and the suffering they cause.

He highlighted that the council’s efforts go beyond raising awareness to taking concrete measures to support the victims of terrorist acts, including members of the Arab security services and their families.

Koman said that these efforts include the establishment of an Arab security solidarity fund to cover the expenses of medical, social, and psychological support for Arab police and security personnel and their families, in addition to the development of a model for the organizational structure of a department in the security services specializing in psychological counseling.

“The department will be operated by social workers and psychologists who have the capacity to help victims overcome the pain and tragedy of terrorism,” he said.

Koman praised the efforts of Arab countries in assisting the victims of terrorist acts and alleviating their suffering, including providing financial and moral support and providing them with treatment and privileges, such as monthly wages, scholarships for their families and medals of honors to their martyrs.

He urged public and civil society institutions to develop awareness-raising efforts through holding seminars and organizing events to remember the suffering of the victims and provide them with social, psychological and financial support.

Koman concluded by saying a prayer for the victims harmed by terrorist acts and members of the security services who died foiling terrorist crimes and fighting terrorists.