16 January 2011

Suicide in Indonesia...

Suicide is a tragedy. It is not only a tragedy for those that make the ultimate choice to end it all, it is also a tragedy for those that are left behind and who must deal with the shattered lives that remain. Two things had me thinking about death and the way it is portrayed and discussed this morning: the first was an article in The Jakarta Globe and the second was seeing that "RIP Justin Bieber" was trending on Twitter (just about anything that has a Justin Bieber link trends or goes viral on Twitter, just ask Conan O'Brien. And, I am wondering whether or not "Justine Bieber: Suicide Death" within this post will result in any additional traffic to this blog post? If there is, then this might be a good thing from an awareness perspective).

This short post is an opinion piece on suicide in Indonesia.

According to The Jakarta Globe, the Ministry of Health's 'suicide hotline' has been ringing off the hook with a sharp increase in the number of calls during the first three months of operation. The hotline number for those that need it is 500-454 (although I recall Jakarta phone numbers having more digits than that...the number is correct, I checked!). The hotline was launched as part of World Mental Health Day in October 2010. Dr. Bella Patriajaya, Head of the Suharto Heerjan Mental Health Hospital, said that the reason was that more people were seeking help for their problems.

The data to-date is showing that not everyone who calls the hotline is intending to commit suicide. There are also significant numbers of people calling who are depressed or suffering other mental disorders. Even though, there is no confession of intent to kill themselves, the suicide hotline is still an excellent starting point for a sympathetic ear and perhaps some direction to services that can provide longer-term support.

Interestingly, the World Health Organization 2001 data states that the suicide rate in Indonesia is 1.6-1.8 suicides per 100,000 people. Nevertheless, a more recent study conducted by Ahmad Prayitno of Trisakti University in Jakarta supports more recent WHO data for Southeast Asia that claims that the suicide rate is closer to 24 incidents per 100,000. This is a staggering number as it would equate to about 50,000 suicides per year or 1,500 suicides per day. The reality is that even this study suspects that the actual rate and numbers are much higher.

The more recent studies are showing a trend in the reasons for suicide becoming more economic related. This includes losing a job, being demoted, or even living beyond one's means and getting into a spiral of uncontrollable debt. Nevertheless, the study also shows that more 'traditional' reasons relating to an inability to deal with emotional trauma remains a significant factor.

One of the biggest difficulties in determining exact numbers is the taboo nature of the subject. In most religions, and communities, suicide is frowned upon. Therefore, it is not uncommon that many suicides go unreported or are misreported as natural or accidental deaths.

It is important to remember that suicide is not a problem unique to one country. So, speak up and reach out! You might just save a life.

No comments: