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.


US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

Updated 16 sec ago
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US accuses Iran of destabilizing Mideast with missile program

  • Cites Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon
  • Says Iran's ballistic missile test and satellite launches violated UN Security Council resolution

JEDDAH: Iran’s missile program is destabilizing the Middle East, and Tehran risks starting a regional arms race by supplying weapons to armed groups in Lebanon and Yemen, a senior US arms control official said on Tuesday.

“Iran must immediately cease activities related to ballistic missiles designed to be capable of delivering nuclear weapons, and halt the proliferation of missiles and missile technology to terror groups and other non-state actors,” Yleem Poblete, assistant secretary of state for arms control, verification and compliance, said in a speech to the UN-sponsored Conference on Disarmament in Geneva, Switzerland.

“Iran’s missile program is a key contributor to increased tensions and destabilization in the region, increasing the risk of a regional arms race,” she said, denouncing Iran’s support to the Houthi movement in Yemen and to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

She said Iran had provided ballistic missiles to the Houthis that were fired into Saudi Arabia and unmanned aerial systems to Houthi groups that enable strikes against land-based targets in Saudi Arabia and the UAE. “We are committed to aggressively countering Iran’s regional proliferation of ballistic missiles and its unlawful arms transfers,” she said.

US President Donald Trump said when he quit the 2015 deal that lifted international sanctions against Iran in exchange for limits on its nuclear activities that the agreement failed to rein in Iran’s missile program or curb its regional meddling.

The US has accused Iran of defying a UN Security Council resolution by carrying out a ballistic missile test and two satellite launches since December.

Poblete urged “all responsible countries” to enforce UN Security Council resolutions restricting the transfer of missile-related technologies to Iran. She also accused Iran of “pursuing pharmaceutical-based agents for offensive purposes,” but did not provide details.

Harvard scholar and Iranian affairs expert Dr. Majid Rafizadeh said Iran had the largest ballistic program in the Middle East. “Through its ballistic missile program, the Iranian regime appears determined to escalate tensions in the region and seek every opportunity to project its power in order to reassert its hegemony,” he said. “The international community ought to hold Tehran accountable for its military adventurism and violations of international standards.”