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

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.


Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

Updated 16 min 4 sec ago

Lebanon not expecting new aid pledges at Paris meeting

  • The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new PM unraveled
  • Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29

BEIRUT/PARIS: Lebanon does not expect new aid pledges at conference which France is hosting on Wednesday to press for the quick formation of a new government that can tackle an acute financial crisis.
French Foreign Minister Jean-Yves Le Drian urged Lebanon to create a new government swiftly or risk the crisis worsening and threatening the country’s stability.
The economic crisis is the worst since the 1975-90 civil war: a liquidity crunch has led banks to enforce capital controls and the Lebanese pound to slump by one third.
Lebanon has also been in a political impasse since Saad Al-Hariri quit as prime minister on Oct. 29, prompted by protests against the ruling elite, with no agreement on a new government.
Nadim Munla, senior adviser to Hariri, who is running the government as caretaker, told Reuters the Paris meeting would probably signal a readiness to offer support once a government is formed that commits to reforms.
“They will recognize that there is a short-term problem and that if and when a government (is formed) that basically responds to the aspirations of people, most probably the international community will be ready to step in and provide support to Lebanon, or additional support,” he said.
“It is not a pledging conference.”
Lebanon won pledges of over $11 billion at a conference last year conditional on reforms that it has failed to implement. The economic crisis is rooted in years of corruption and waste that have generated one of the world’s heaviest public debt burdens.
The political impasse returned to square one on Sunday when a tentative agreement on a new prime minister unraveled.
Hariri is now seen as the only candidate for the post.
He has said he would only lead a cabinet of specialist ministers, believing this is the way to address the economic crisis, attract aid, and satisfy protesters who have been in the streets since Oct. 17 seeking the removal of a political class blamed for corruption and misrule.
But Hezbollah and its allies including President Michel Aoun say the government must include politicians.
“Let’s see the coming few days and if there will be an agreement among the political parties on a formation ... otherwise we might take longer,” Munla said. Hariri would be willing to have politicians in cabinet but they should not be “the regular known faces of previous governments.”