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.


Egypt slams Turkish minister’s remarks after refusing dialogue with Ankara

Egypt's Minister of Foreign Affairs Sameh Shoukry. (AFP)
Updated 51 min 16 sec ago

Egypt slams Turkish minister’s remarks after refusing dialogue with Ankara

  • Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry had responded to previous calls from Ankara over the necessity of improved dialogue with Egypt, stressing that Egypt was monitoring Turkish actions and statements to assess the viability of discussions

CAIRO: The Egyptian Foreign Ministry has condemned derogatory remarks made by the Turkish foreign minister, days after a Turkish attempt to open a dialogue with Egypt was rejected by Cairo.

The spokesperson of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Ahmed Hafez, denounced the foreign minister’s comments made in a conversation with a local TV channel, and said talking about Egypt in such a tone showed a lack of sincerity in Ankara’s efforts to seeking to create relations based on respect.

These developments came hours after Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan told reporters in Istanbul “we have no objection to dialogue with Egypt” on Friday.

Sources revealed that Ankara had contacted Cairo several times requesting a meeting between the two countries’ security officials over events in the Mediterranean. Egypt, however, refused over Cairo’s reservations about Turkey’s incursion into Libya, as well as its links to the Muslim Brotherhood.

Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry had responded to previous calls from Ankara over the necessity of improved dialogue with Egypt, stressing that Egypt was monitoring Turkish actions and statements to assess the viability of discussions. For now, he suggested, such talks were impossible on account of Turkey’s foreign policies.

“The policies that we see from the military presence on Syrian, Iraqi and Libyan soil, and the existing tension in the eastern Mediterranean, all indicate destabilizing expansionist policies in the region, and therefore cannot lead to dialogue and the start of a new page.

“The matter is not (one for) what is declared (by Turkey) but by actions and policies that promote stability, and are consistent with the rules of international relations and international legitimacy, which are of interest to us at this stage,” Shoukry said.

A few days ago, Shoukry confirmed that Turkish activity in many Arab countries represented the most significant emerging threat to Arab national security, stressing that Egypt would not remain idle in the face of these challenges.

In a speech before the Arab Ministerial Committee on Turkish interventions within the framework of the League of Arab States Council’s 154th regular session, he added that Egypt opposed Turkish ambitions manifesting themselves in northern Iraq, Syria and Libya in particular.