Home Previous Issues Suicide in Yemen Risk of Suicide is 20 Times Higher Among People with Mental Illness

Risk of Suicide is 20 Times Higher Among People with Mental Illness

Sawt Al-Amal (Voice of Hope) – Hebah Mohammed

Mental health problems are among the main risk factors for suicide. This phenomenon has increased in the recent period due to the ongoing conflict in the country, which has directly affected the mental and psychological health of a large number of Yemenis. These mental disorders also led to many suicide incidents.

The Main Cause of Suicide

Yemeni society, like other Arab societies, suffers from poor level of health services related to mental and neurological diseases. It also suffers from backwardness in terms of social culture regarding this issue and the stigma associated with psychiatric patients, or even those seeking psychological support. All of these factors contributed to the spread of the phenomenon throughout Yemen, since mental illness and neglect in the speed of treatment became the main contributing factors to suicide.

According to Dr. Adhwaa Al-Muhammadi, a consultant psychiatrist and neurologist at Taiz University, “Mental disorders in the suicidal person are the primary cause of suicides, because it is impossible for a psychologically healthy person to decide to commit suicide. However, a person may think of committing suicide if he suffers from psychological accumulations, pressures, or family or societal problems that have led to severe psychological depression.”

Regarding the most common mental illness and symptoms that cause suicide, Al-Mohammadi indicated that the first cause is acute depression. Among the symptoms that appear on the affected person include a feeling of unwillingness to live, sleep or eating disorders, isolation from others, a lack of self-worth, distress and anguish, a desire to cry, and then ending one’s life.

Regarding the other mental illness, she stated, “If an individual suffers from schizophrenia, he imagines hearing non-existent voices, and suffers from auditory and visual hallucinations. Additionally, he imagines hearing voices telling him to harm himself, end his life, or attack those closest to him or those he doesn’t trust.”

As for the main factors that cause these mental illnesses, Al-Mohammadi said, “There are many reasons behind the emergence of mental illnesses represented in the genetic causes related to heredity. That is, if a family member carries a mental illness, whether it is severe depression or schizophrenia, it is genetically transmitted to one of the family members. The other reason is the psychological pressures caused by factors including, family problems, loss of a father or mother, loss of children, loss of a husband or wife, or loss of a job, in addition to conflicts that lead to poverty, unemployment, and food insecurity. These are all pressures related to livelihood that lead to mental illness and its subsequent harmful behaviors, such as suicide or harming others.”

Mental Illnesses and Suicide

Regarding mental illnesses and their scientific relationship to suicide, Dr. Fouad Morshid, a psychologist at the Center for Psychological Counseling at Ibb University, said, “Suicide is a mental act that may be committed for intellectual, social, religious, philosophical, or personal reasons, or it may be committed for the opposite reason. It is also due to a pathological act resulting from the development of various mental disorders, including depression, chronic delirium, etc., or it may be the result of a real acute trauma that forms a violent wave of anxiety directed aggressively towards oneself.”

Murshid asserted that mental disorders are often present at the time of suicide. It is also estimated that between 27% and more than 90% of the total number of people who die by suicide suffer from severe depression, and that suffering from this or other mental disorders (such as bipolar disorder) increases the risk of suicide by 20 times.

He explained that other cases, including schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and post-traumatic stress disorder, make up 14%, and that about 5% of people with schizophrenia commit suicide.

“There are a number of psychological conditions that lead to an increase in the possibility of suicide, including despair, loss of pleasure in life, depression, and chronic anxiety. The limited ability to solve problems, the loss of the abilities that the person used to have, in addition to the weakness of impulse control, are among the things that play a role in this issue. He pointed out that some individuals may resort to suicide to escape bullying or as a result of being sexually abused in childhood. According to studies, sexual abuse contributes to about 20% of the overall risk of resorting to suicide,” he added.

Dr. Abeer Dirhem, a psychologist at Sana’a University, believes that the relationship between mental illness and the phenomenon of suicide in Yemeni society is direct. This is due to the fact that no person thinks of suicide unless there are things stronger than him that push him to end his life, and to a large degree, these things are various mental illnesses.

“In fact, a person does not reach suicidal thoughts unless the suffering intensifies and he tries every possible way to put an end to it. However, all these solutions only led him to a dead end. The reason may be that a person has been exposed to many traumas that accompany him from childhood to maturity, during which a person thinks of getting rid of his life, and results in an accumulation of negative feelings and errors in thinking. Thus, the person begins to think illogically and irrationally,” Dirhem added.

Dr. Ahmed Al-Amiri, a mental health consultant at Taiz University, pointed out that various mental illnesses are the main cause of suicide in Yemen, due to the lack of awareness among people of the importance of confronting mental illnesses from their inception with appropriate treatment. Cases of mental disorders have increased as a result of the disastrous conditions left by the conflict, which created bitter psychological conditions. Moreover, the bad economic situation increases suffering and mental illness, so that we are almost certain that there is no Yemeni family that does not have its own crises.

Depression and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorders

Dr. Abeer Dirhem pointed out that most mental disorders, such as depression and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD), are overlapping and linked. Thus, we cannot say that there is a pure disorder according to the criterion of psychological diagnosis regarding which of the diseases appeared first and which appeared most frequently. For example, severe depression may be the result of a strong trauma, failure, or loss in something, and its symptoms include reaching a stage of despair and frustration due to errors in thinking. After many unsuccessful attempts, the person develops a dark view towards life, which makes him search for available solutions – trying some, and despairing of others. However, when all these attempts fail, he commits suicide.

According to Dr. Dirhem “Obsessive-compulsive disorder is a repetitive behavior caused by doubts about one’s action, such as closing doors continuously, repeating ablution for prayer more than once, etc. It may come in the form of a repetitive and erroneous idea, such as erroneous ideas about God that He is not perfect, which are abnormal ideas that haunt the mind of an obsessive-compulsive patient and cause him anxiety and perhaps depression later on. Hence, obsessive-compulsive disorder does not harm a person directly; rather, what harms him is despair and anxiety that he will not recover from this disease, because he may show symptoms of depression. Thus, several disorders and symptoms overlapping with each other lead to thinking about ending one’s life.”

Psychotherapy Overcomes All Fears          

Mental illness, like any other organic disease, is subject to treatment and is easily curable. According to Al-Mohammadi, “As opposed to what is commonly believed in Yemeni society, mental illness is not a defect, nor it is a sign of weakness in one’s faith or personality. In addition, mental illness has nothing to do with jinn, demons, witchcraft, or sorcery, because all of these are incorrect societal notions. That is, mental illness is a very normal disease like any other illness including, diabetes or blood pressure, because there are chronic diseases in which the patient needs treatment throughout their entire life, and there are also diseases in which the patient needs a certain period of treatment until he is completely cured.”

Al-Amiri advises the Yemeni community to go to psychological treatment centers as soon as possible in the event symptoms of mental illness appear, because treating the condition at its beginning makes treatment easier and recovery quicker. However, if a person is late in treatment and neglects it, and his psychological condition worsens, the disease will turn into chronic and severe depression, and the possibility of having suicidal thoughts will be greater. As a result, treatment becomes difficult and will take a long period of time.

Dirhem directed her message to psychiatric patients, the family and Yemeni society, saying, “There will be no fear of mental illness if the psychiatric patient has full awareness of this problem and is supported by his family to expedite appropriate treatment for his condition. The patient must help himself first and seek help from others, and not be ashamed of that illness, especially when he feels that his psychological condition is weak. This is due to the fact that health comes before anything else, whereas the opinions of society and people is not that important, because at the time of severe illness and suicidal thoughts, no one will feel him, and he will be a victim of himself.”

“The family must be closer to their children, and if one member of the family has a psychological problem, they must help him and take him to a psychologist and support him psychologically. They also have to refrain from reprimanding him and reminding him of his illness; rather, they have to contain the patient and stand by him, because support during illness or psychological distress makes a big difference in recovery and in protecting against escalating to suicide,” she added.

Mental illnesses remain one of the main causes of suicide. There are also other causes for it including, economic and social factors, the spread of narcotic substances and their abuse among young people, weak religious faith, in addition to a number of other factors that put Yemeni society in real conflict with itself. Therefore, it is the responsibility of educational institutions, places of worship, and families to mitigate and lower suicide rates. This is done through positive interaction with psychiatric patients and trying to enroll them in mental treatment facilities without being afraid or worried about society’s deficient social view before their illnesses develops and they find themselves in a worse situation than they already are.

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