Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Where does suicide stand today?

I am featuring a news item from Waiting Room, a magazine compromising news for the health and wellness-conscious and believing that information is power—that it empowers people to take control of their lives and bring about positive change in themselves and the community in which they belong. In reporting and communicating health information, its commitment is to truth, integrity, fairness, professionalism, and excellence so to help establish a responsive and responsible health-care system.

Little being done to curb suicides pushes for a wide attention regarding the soaring rates of both suicide attempts and suicides from “. . . governments that are not committing enough resources to prevention but also in part because suicides are often recorded as violent murders or accidents”.

“There are more than one million people who die by suicide each year in the world, which is more than those who die from war, terrorist attacks, and homicides every year,” Brian Mishara [president of the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP)] said.

According to World Health Organization (WHO), the following are the challenges and obstacles why this issue gets scant attention:

 Worldwide, the prevention of suicide has not been adequately addressed due to lack of awareness on suicide as a major problem and the taboo in many societies to discuss openly about it. In fact, only a few countries have included prevention of suicide among their priorities.

 Reliability of suicide certification and reporting is an issue in great need of improvement.

 It is clear that suicide prevention requires intervention also from outside the health sector and calls for an innovative, comprehensive multi-sectoral approach, including both health and non-health sectors, e.g. education, labour, police, justice, religion, law, politics, the media.

There states, in its website, that approximately one million people died from suicide: a “global” mortality rate of 16 per 100,000 or one death every 40 seconds in the year 2000. In the last 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60 % worldwide making suicide as the third leading cause of death among those aged 15-44 years (both sexes). Mental disorders (particularly depression and substance abuse) are associated with more than 90 % of all cases of suicide. However, suicide results from many complex sociocultural factors and is more likely to occur particularly during periods of socioeconomic, family and individual crisis situations (http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/, October 2008).

In the Philippines, issues on suicide are rare and that they are only featured if there involve suicide bombings. The latest suicide rate dates back in 1993 which states that the country has a total of 2.1 (suicides per 100, 000 people), 2.5 for males while females with 1.7 (http://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suiciderates/en/, October 2008).

Young Adult Fertility and Sexuality Study 3 (YAFSS) has concluded that young Filipinos are capable of doing drastic acts such as committing suicide.
It is surprising to note that despite the general notion of the youth being in the prime of their life, suicide ideation is substantial with about 12.4 per cent reported that they ever thought of committing suicide. Larger percentage of females than males admitted to suicide ideation (17.1 % vs. 7.3 %) with very little difference across age group (Cruz and Berja, 2004, p. 67).

The rareness of information-drive on suicide is an attestation that it is, up to this day, considered taboo as dictated by influences coming from different cultures, societies, and religions.

If this scenario continues to persist, what will happen, then, to the advocacy which promotes suicide prevention? At surface, where does suicide really stand today? Or does it have a stance?

Perhaps, this is another “culture of silence”.

-Amanah Busran Lao
HAIN Research Associate

• “Little being done to curb suicides”. Waiting Room: May-June 2008, page 1.
• World Health Organization. October 24, 2008 .
• World Health Organization. October 24, 2008 .
• Cruz, Grace T., Berja, Clarinda L. Non-Sexual Risk Behavior. Youth Sex and Risk Behaviors in the Philippines. Demographic Research and Development Foundation, Inc. University of the Philippines Population Institute Diliman, Quezon City