Statistics, research on suicide cases in Jordan are insufficient — experts

The yellow ribbon is an emblem for suicide prevention awareness, particularly for young people, and is used for suicide prevention awareness in many countries
The yellow ribbon is an emblem for suicide prevention awareness, particularly for young people, and is used for suicide prevention awareness in many countries. (Photo: Envato Elements)
AMMAN — World Suicide Prevention Day has been observed on September 10 every year since 2003, in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides.اضافة اعلان

The situation in Jordan is quite foggy due to lack of official reports and accurate statistics on suicide cases. What is clearer, however, is the fact that the deteriorating economic and social conditions, greatly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, seem to be responsible for a rise in the number of cases.

According to the latest report issued by the Department of Statistics, 169 people committed suicide in Jordan in 2021, a 10 percent increase over the previous year, and the highest number since 2017.

Last week, a well-known comedian announced in an Instagram livestream that he was going to take his own life. It is only because the police reached his house in time that his life was saved.

According to a friend of the young comedian, the latter got depressed after he found that a former minister had filed a lawsuit against him, which pushed him to take this step.

A week earlier, a young doctor killed herself at hospital after posting a cryptic message on social media.

“Remember me [for my good deeds]… or forget me… I am forgotten anyway,” she allegedly wrote on Twitter before killing herself.

According to Raed Al-Momani, director of the forensic medicine department at Al-Bashir Hospital, “the total number of suicide cases registered in Jordan in the first six months of 2022 totaled 65, 45 of whom were males and 20 females. In 2021, a total of 68 cases were recorded in the same period (49 males and 19 females)”.

According to the Public Prosecution Office, 117 suicide attempts were recorded in the capital, Amman, in the first eight months of this year.

Alaa Al-Frokh, deputy chairman of the Psychiatrists Association‎, told Jordan News that “globally, suicide is the second most common cause of death of people between 15 and 29 years old”. In Jordan, however, there are “no official statistics concerning juvenile suicides”, he said.

“In Jordan, we do not have enough statistics nor organizations specialized in this matter,” he said, adding that “even if an organization decides to conduct specific research in this matter, it will be faced with many security constraints.”

According to Frokh, “mental problems are increasing, which would necessarily increase the rate of suicides, as nearly 90 per cent of global suicides are related to mental disorders, especially depression”.

He also said that the “numbers, periodically issued by the Public Security Directorate do not reflect the accurate figures of suicide cases”.
Many families refuse to register their children’s cause of death as suicide fearing stigma and taboos.
 “According to our observations as psychiatrists, the numbers are much higher,” he said, adding that “70–80 percent of those who have mental disorders, do not get treatment.”

He also claimed that “many deaths are recorded as being of various causes, when in fact they are suicides”.

“Many families refuse to register their children’s cause of death as suicide fearing stigma and taboos,” he said.

Last April, the Lower House approved a draft law stipulating that “whoever attempts to commit suicide in a public place by committing any of the actions that usually lead to death shall be punished by imprisonment for a period not exceeding six months and a fine not exceeding JD100, or by one of these two penalties”.

The penalty doubles if it is an attempted mass suicide.

“Rather than take a modicum of responsibility for the desperate environment that is leading Jordanians to kill themselves in public, and heed global public health calls to abolish laws that criminalize suicide, the Jordanian government has its head stuck in the sand, looking only for new ways to punish Jordanians even as they die,” said Sarah Leah Whitson, executive director for Democracy for the Arab World Now.

A report by the Euro-Med Monitor stated that the country has recently seen an increase in delinquent behavior among youths and a 31 percent rise in the juvenile suicide rate.

The report stated that “it is important to analyze the juvenile justice system and assess the extent to which it aligns with international standards on juvenile justice, and most prominently with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), ratified by Jordan in 1991”.

Sakher Al–Khasawneh, an attorney and professor of media legislation, told Jordan News that “the rise in (the number of) suicides among juveniles is normal as over 60 per cent of the people in Jordan belong to this age group”.

Some experts, however, say that sheer numbers cannot justify the significant increase in suicide cases among young people. If there are other reasons, they are swept under the carpet or spoken about in hushed tones.

“Minor violations in security centers do exist, though they are not a phenomenon”, Khasawneh said, adding that the juvenile justice system aligns with international standards.

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