In my last piece I outlined the sociological reasons for people who commit suicide and discussed in detail the theory of suicide by a famous French sociologist Emile Durkheim. In this piece, I have decided to address the suicide issue from both the gender and psychological worldviews.

Psychologists do offer various explanations regarding suicide from the individualist perspective. Sigmund Freud has mentioned two concepts i.e. ‘Life’ instincts (Ero) which primary deals with pleasure, survival and reproduction, whereas ‘Death’ instincts (Thanatos) is the outward aggression, which Freud believes can lead towards self-harm, destruction and suicide.

Another psychologist David Malan has stated that suicide results from the accumulated trauma, whereas Eric Erickson has argued that it is an inability to cope with the overwhelming feelings of guilt.

Thomas Joiner has outlined the main reasons for suicide such as, thwarted belongingness, perceived burden on others, reduced fear and elevation of pain tolerance.

Edwin Shneidman has said that suicide is caused by a particular kind of pain called “psychache” which is defined as an emotional and psychological pain that has reached an intolerable level or intensity.

Aaron Beck has shed light on the role of hopelessness and identified 91% such cases which resulted in suicide.

Roy Baumeister has given an “escaped theory of suicide” in which he has described a series of steps leading to suicide.

According to this theory, an individual experiences a severe difference between expectations and real events which develops an aversive state of self-awareness that produces negative affect (inadequacies leading to sadness, distress, worry) and escaping from this negative state as well as from self-awareness lead to a numb state of cognitive deconstruction.

David Rudd has given a fluid vulnerability model that suicidal episodes are time limited which means that risk factors that both trigger a suicidal incident and determine the duration and severity of an episode are fluid.

The biological theorists point out different reasons and factors that result in an individual to commit suicide.  To mention few of them, the changes in the neurotransmission of serotonin (related to sleep, depression and memory) and post synoptic signal transduction which is often affected by drug abuse and stress. The other reasons include the “dysfunctional hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis”, low cholesterol level, reduced serotonin level, genes and family history.    

Given that, the gender differences and suicide rates in both men and women in different regions of Pakistan has shown fluctuating rates. Generally, the suicide rate measured in terms of gender, male to female ratio is 2:1 in which males have outnumbered women in higher suicide rates in Pakistan.

However, according to the recent data revealed by police, in the past eight months some regions like Chitral and Swat, female suicide rates have almost doubled and showed an opposite trend in the seven districts of Malakand division.

Although, suicide ideation and suicidal behavior rates are higher among women but the difference seems to lie in the mortality rates which are lower among women than men. It suggests that lethality of method used for ending one’s life is violent and more lethal in men i.e. hanging, use of firearm, which leaves little chance of rescue and survival for men than women who employ non-violent methods i.e. drug overdose and self-cutting.

However, this cannot be applied to the female suicide rates which have almost doubled in Chitral and in different districts of Malakand division. A study conducted in Chitral district has mentioned that methods used for suicide were hanging and drowning.

The other reasons included failure in exams, family and marital disputes, lack of family support, mental and health issues.

A research study has also found a strong correlation of women with histories of sexual assault in both childhood and adulthood with greater suicidal attempts and committing suicides.

Suicidal behavior is linked with impulsivity, men have been found to be more impulsive than women.

Aggressiveness, risk taking, involved in drug abuse and criminal behavior which partly explain that why suicide rates are higher among men than in women. 

Firstly, seeking help for depression and mental health treatment are higher among women than men. Secondly, the sex-differences and gender socialization also account for differences in suicide rates in men and women.

Men are socialized to be strong, emotionally stable, less vulnerable, self-reliant and the typical masculine role requires them not to seek help and make it difficult for them to recognize depression. 

Research studies have shown that suicide rates rise and fall with economy. Sharp increase in unemployment, displacement of people from homes and high inflation rate has led to higher suicide rate. The economic recession and crisis have had a profound effect on suicide rate and resulted in its ultimate rise.

Conclusively, suicide is not caused by a single factor but multiple factors. So to prevent it, a multisectoral approach should be employed to address the higher rates of suicide in Pakistan.

The Director General of World Health Organization (WHO) Dr Margaret Chan has rightly pointed out: "Every single life lost to suicide is one too many. The way forward is to act together, and the time to act is now. I call upon all stakeholders to make suicide prevention an imperative”.