The idea for ‘The Suicide Story’ came as I observed a young colleague of mine, generally a quite person, withdraw even more within himself. I also observed the increasing number suicides incidences among the teens and young adults being reported in Pakistani newspapers, especially in the last few years. This was just the tip of the iceberg as an unknown number of such cases go unreported because of social and cultural taboos. This was a special report for the Newsline Magazine for which I researched all the recent incidences of suicide in the newspapers, however there were several suicides I heard by word of mouth that were not acknowledged as suicide but as accidental deaths and therefore went unreported.
I attended a seminar especially held on the subject by Centre of Biomedical Ethics and Culture Forum, Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (CBEC-SIUT) which was attended by psychiatrists, counselors and psychologists who I spoke to and are mentioned in the article. I have also quoted the data I researched from recent published literature and news reports on the subject including those by WHO and SIUT. Suicidal tendencies are at time hard to recognize, and if they are, they are either ignored or brushed under the carpet and not addressed the way it should be with the help of psychiatrists and psychologists. I have also used various illustrations in my article to explain the how to identify and help get help for who are suicide-prone. There has also been an alarming number of suicides among school and college going youngsters and it is being attributed to the environments created by social media. Only two days before the magazine went to print, a promising young student committed suicide by jumping from the fourth floor of a building belonging to a well-known school system. An eye-witness account was given by her school-mate which went viral on social media and spoke volumes on the attitude and lack of understanding about suicide which became part of my article.
The target audience was the general public, but mainly the youth, who constitute 64% of the country’s population. The main aim for writing this article was to raise awareness among parents and teachers who can encourage the youngsters to speak more openly about issues of depression and mental health and help avoid suicidal tendencies among the troubled youth.
What makes this project innovative?
This story differs in the sense that the subject of suicide in the Pakistan and its underlying causes is never openly discussed. However the heavy prevalence of social media, especially among the had given the incidence of suicide a new dimension. This platform is held responsible for creating alternative realities and new forms of social pressure and norms among the youth who become disappointed and dishearten when faced with hard realities of life leading some to resort to suicide thinking of themselves as failures. The social media forum is also a place where friends and family could recognise troubled individuals whose posts indicate that they are in need of support and help, but invariably their cries for help goes unrecognised. Incidences of suicide have always been brushed under the carpet, even by the authorities mainly due to cultural and social norms as explained in the article. Suicide has rarely been recognised as a matter of mental health and recent incidences show that it is yet to be acknowledged as an a social issue that needs attention by families, friends, teachers, institutions and authorities. I attended a seminar last year held by Centre of Biomedical Ethics and Culture Forum, Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (CBEC-SIU) that was especially on the subject on the prevalence of suicide especially among the youth to hear psychiatrists, counselors and psychologists speak and discuss on the subject and their experiences with those who had suicidal tendencies. Later I got in touch with all the main speakers to understand the subject more in depth. It was an eye-opener and I pitched the idea to my editor who asked to me to write it as a special report in which I gave the global as well as the local perspective.
What was the impact of your project? How did you measure it?
The article seems to have been circulated widely after it was published in December 2018. In January 2019 the Pakistan Mental Health Association (PMHA) held a mass awareness drive for a month and in collaboration with the HUM TV group and for broadcast public interest messages on their channels about mental health and openly discussing about depression. During that time the PMHA held several seminars on mental health. When the story was uploaded on Newsline’s Facebook page, in December 2018, it has reached to date 23,778 people and has 692 engagements and shared 56 times https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?id=142285659118992&story_fbid=2396024517078417
Source and methodology
sources/organisations you got the data from. I researched the internet for all the news reports on suicide, especially among the Pakistani youth over the last few years. I attended a seminar on the prevalence of suicide, especially among young students and adults held by Centre of Biomedical Ethics and Culture Forum, Sindh Institute of Urology and Transplantation (CBEC-SIU) to the hear the psychiatrists, counselors and psychologists and got in touch when them later to speak to them at length. I also researched the data given by World Health Organisation and the literature provided on the subject by CBEC and a publication ‘On the pathway to suicide: suicidal ideation in young people in Karachi, Pakistan,’ in the Youth Voice Journal. https://youthvoicejournal.com/2018/08/21/ehsan-u-syed-nargis-asad-murad-m-khan-mohammad-zaman-and-shahina-pirani-2018-on-the-pathway-to-suicide-suicidal-ideation-in-young-people-in-karachi-pakistan/
I used mostly the internet search engines for news items on suicide published by various news organisations in Pakistan. After publication of the Newsline magazine in December 2018, the article was uploaded on the magazine’s website and Facebook page. The software InDesign for Apple was used for the layout of the article. The graphics and illustrations were taken from various Suicide Prevention and Awareness pages on Facebook to illustrate the importance of viewing the world from the perspective of a person with suicidal tendencies.
Sairah Irshad Khan - Senior Editor