BEIRUT: At least four Lebanese people have died by suicide in the past week.
The population of the country is finding the prevailing economic and social conditions hard to bear, and Diab Audi, a retired warrant officer in the Internal Security Forces, died after suffering a heart attack inside a Lebanese bank, unable to retrieve withheld savings.
Lebanon is in the midst of a devastating economic crisis that has plunged more than 80 percent of its population into poverty, according to the UN.
Information International, a Beirut-based research consultancy firm, has recently published a study showing a significant rise in registered suicides following a decrease in numbers in 2022.
The average number of suicides from 2013 to 2022 was 143, with the highest, 172, recorded in 2019.
Preliminary investigations revealed that last week’s figures were exacerbated by adverse economic and living conditions.
Mohammed Ibrahim was found dead on Sunday after reportedly shooting himself in his hometown of Wardaniyeh. His employment involved working on the judges’ mutual fund at the Sidon Palace of Justice, and he was the nephew of financial prosecutor Judge Ali Ibrahim.
The previous day, Hussein Al-Abed Mroueh, 40, from the town of Zararia in south Lebanon, was found dead in one of the orchards surrounding his home.
It was clear from statements of his acquaintances that he “had constant economic and financial problems and does not work in a specific field.”
Mousa Al-Shami, a resident of Jarjouaa, also died by suicide and left a recorded message to a friend that was shared on social media, asking him to take care of his children.
Al-Shami said that he could no longer bear the economic burdens and his difficult situation, adding that he could no longer feed his children.
A young man in his 30s strangled his wife and 4-year-old child in the Daraya area in Mount Lebanon governorate in late February, before his death by suicide. He was reportedly unable to pay his debts.
Embrace Lebanon, a nongovernmental organization that bids to administer mental health help, has defined suicide as a process involving psychological, social, biological, cultural, and environmental factors, adding it is a summary of an experience of crises, disasters, violence, abuse, chronic pain, illness or loss, and a sense of isolation.
It stated that suicide rates are high among vulnerable groups that suffer discrimination, and the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt.
According to a 2022 survey conducted by the Central Administration of Statistics and the International Labor Organization, the collapse of the national currency, and the state’s inability to carry out the reforms required by the international community, has resulted in the percentage of families receiving income from retirement and other social insurance allowances decreasing from 28 percent to 10 percent.
The survey further noted that 85 percent of families are unable to survive — even for one month — in the event of losing their sources of income.
General Labor Union President Bechara Al-Asmar met Caretaker Prime Minister Najib Mikati on Monday.
Al-Asmar later said: “The state is looking for revenues, but it should not be at the expense of 90 percent of the population.
“Taxes and fees must be reduced at this difficult stage, but in reality the state has increased taxes and fees, and raised the exchange rate on the central bank’s Sayrafa platform to 70,000 Lebanese pounds to the dollar, making employees lose on average 56 percent of the value of their incomes.
“All these decisions have not been properly reviewed before implementation.”
Al-Asmar added: “Military and civilian retirees have all become poor. Compensation in the public sector is still at the previous official exchange rate of 1,500 Lebanese pounds to the dollar.
“Significant irregularities in the pricing of commodities have occurred after the state allowed merchants to dollarize prices, and chaos could soon prevail in markets as Ramadan approaches.”