Dubai: A new suicide prevention campaign called ‘Suicide in the Middle East: prevalent but preventable’ will renew the drive to lower the suicide rate in the UAE which, according to various statistics, is at 5-6 per 100,000.
The World Health Organisation pegs the global average at 16 per 100,000.
Though the figures in the UAE are lower compared to global estimates, psychiatrics, psychologists and emergency medicine specialists suggest that the number of attempted suicide cases is on the rise.
The campaign by the UAE-based American Centre for Psychiatry and Neurology (ACPN) in conjunction with the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) was unveiled during a conference on November 26, 2012.
In its initial phase, the annual campaign — the first in Dubai — will include awareness activities targeting health care professionals, government authorities, community leaders, non-profit organisations and educational institutions. Last year, a similar campaign was rolled out in Abu Dhabi. In the second phase, public awareness drives will be considered.
Dr Yousuf Abouallaban, managing director and consultant psychiatrist at ACPN told Gulf News: “Almost every week, we come across patients who attempt suicide or think about suicide. Through the campaign, we will host a series of lectures and workshops, addressing warning signs of suicide and how to deal with people who are suicidal. ”
The available figures of suicide rate in the UAE are underrepresented, said Dr Alan Berman, executive director of the American Association of Suicidology, and conference speaker.
Speaking to Gulf News, he said: “We believe that the rate is much higher than reported. Crucial to suicide prevention strategies is data collection and understanding risk factors. Unless we have national data in the UAE both in terms of prevalence and risk factors, solving the problem can’t occur because it is like throwing darts in the wind, not knowing where to target.”
Dr Berman’s view was shared by Dr Adel Karrani, speaker and assistant head of the Psychiatry Department at Rashid Hospital. “Unless there are statistics, we cannot provide a solution,” he told Gulf News.
According to him, the UAE doesn’t have any specific programmes in place for suicide prevention. However efforts are being made to increase awareness among health care workers. “If we recognise the symptoms, we can save lives. Health care workers need to be trained to conduct suicide risk assessments. Almost 50 per cent of suicidal cases are handled by a hospital’s casualty department,” he said.