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Escaping their reality …. Syrians resort to suicide

A confused man sitting on one of the streets in Damascus- 3 February 2020 (a photo taken by a Damascene young man) 

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Enab Baladi – Saleh Malass

“It is the second suicide case today” …in these words a local Facebook page in the city of Aleppo has reported a suicide case of a young man which took place in Bustan al-Qasr neighborhood on 21 of last month. The incident came right after another suicide case of a man shooting himself in the head in al- Furqan neighborhood.

The news shocked many of the page followers, despite being unable to verify its validity since no official announcement has been made on both cases. However, it was part of a long list of daily news published by local pages, where most followers left their pessimistic comments pointing to the poor living conditions as well as the deteriorating economic and social climate. According to their comments these conditions have forced people to lose hope and made it easy for them to lean toward suicidal behavior.

The General Authority of Forensic Medicine (GAFM) in Syria did not report these incidents officially. Yet, on 19 of last May of the current year, the authority have announced that it has registered more than 50 suicide cases since the beginning of the current year.

Meantime, the director of the General Authority of Forensic Medicine (GAFM), Dr. Zahir Hajo, told the local radio, “al-Madina“, that the number of suicides recorded since the beginning of this year in Syria has reached 51 cases so far.

Suicide rates for men was twice as high as for women, according to Hajo, while 13 cases were among people under the age of 18, eight of them were females characterized by a tendency to use aggressive suicide methods.

Aleppo witnessed the highest suicide rate, while areas like Idlib, Raqqa, Deir Ezzor and al-Hasakah are excluded from the census, being outside the control of the Syrian regime.

“Self-blame” translated into suicide

Suicide rates revealed by Syrian governmental sources “come as a result of individuals’ inability to deal with the severe economic crisis the country has witnessed recently”, according to Syrian psychologist Salwa Orabi. She explained by saying “once a person feels a lack of financial stability this leads into a kind of psychological instability” as a result to his deteriorating living conditions.

Since the beginning of last month, the Syrian Pound has witnessed what can be described as the sharpest decline in its value throughout the Syrian history. Meantime, Syrian markets have been affected by these consecutive setbacks and witnessed new hikes in prices and further deterioration in living conditions throughout Syria.

Talking to Enab Baladi, psychologist Salwa Orabi confirmed that for a person to reach the point of suicide, does not happen overnight, but rather it comes gradually and starts in form of psychological accumulations and stress leading to a loss of dignity and self-esteem. She also explained that “people differ in terms of their ability to handle psychological stress and deal with these accumulations.”

When people fail to handle accumulations or solve problems causing them distress, such as being unable to secure their needs or their family’s especially after the prices’ hike which the Syrian markets have witnessed recently. They will “start having episodes of depression which more likely lead to social withdrawal”.  Consequently resulting in “misery, frustration and self-blame”, which will later develop into a suicide attempt “in search for salvation”, as Salwa Orabi put it.

Domestic Abuse

Talking to Enab Baladi, Wael al-Rass, a mental health consultant, attributed the reason behind some women committing suicide to domestic abuse which rose during the quarantine period in the light of the novel Coronavirus (COVID-19) spread.

According to al-Rass, domestic abuse generates psychological trauma for women as a result of beating, insults, being locked at home or even through threats of violence and humiliation. Such behaviors prompted most women to have feelings of inferiority and disappointments, which are usually accompanied by psychological stress that can become a motive to commit suicide later.

“Psychological Resilience” to overcome psychological stress

Individuals’ inability to overcome pressure has to do with what psychiatrist Ammar Betar calls “psychological resilience” in a previous interview with Enab Baladi. He explained that this concept is linked to individuals’ ability to cope with exigent circumstances. This ability varies from one person to another since it is related to people’s value system and the way they were raised.

On the other side of “psychological resilience”, there what we call “psychological fragility” which may lead individuals to commit suicide when exposed to pressure, according to Betar. He pointed that usually the suicide wants to convey a message to those around them that it says “I am afraid, I am sad, I want you to understand me.”

More suicide cases in the absence of psychotherapy

Psychological stress may be translated into different disorders such as chronic anxiety or psychosis, which leads to a loss of sensory perception. In this case patients need specialized treatment, otherwise Syrians will witness more suicide cases, according to psychologist Salwa Orabi.

According to a mental health consultant, Wael al-Rass, the first step in the treatment for patients with mental disorders is to talk about the problem with their social environment. Therefore, family ties and societal cohesion reduce the number of suicides.

According to al-Rass, Syrian society suffers from disintegration of family ties because of displacement. Therefore, such a situation necessitates the involvement of health organizations, psychiatric clinics and specialized medical centers to address the causes leading to suicide to curb it before turning into a major crisis in the Syrian society.

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