Suicide spike in Lebanon amid socio-economic turmoil

Ayman Rahma, from the NGO Embrace, said suicide reports had doubled this year – jumping from an average of 200 per month last year to between 400 and 500 per month this year.

Friday 17/07/2020
A woman lights a candle at the site where a man killed himself in Beirut, Lebanon. (REUTERS)
A woman lights a candle at the site where a man killed himself in Beirut, Lebanon. (REUTERS)

BEIRUT- “I’m not an infidel… But hunger is an infidel,” said a young Lebanese man before taking his own life. His suicide was the fourth recorded in Beirut in less than 24 hours, part of a troubling trend that has been linked to the country’s deep socio-economic turmoil.

Lebanon’s suicide rate, particularly among youth, is growing amid the country’s worst social and economic crisis since the 1975-1990 civil war.

While a spokesperson for Lebanon’s Internal Security Forces could not provide exact figures, he confirmed that suicide rates are up this year. Last year, the Internal Security Forces recorded 171 suicides of those aged between 18 and 29, less than half the number of this year, according to media reports and unofficial data.

Shia cleric Jaafar Fadlullah responded to the issue on his Facebook page, saying that “suicide due to hunger and despair is the responsibility of all the corrupt clique.”

Fadlullah did not clarify who belongs to the “corrupt clique,” but it was a clear reference to Lebanon’s political class that has been widely blamed for the country’s deteriorating economic situation.

“He did not commit suicide, he was killed in cold blood,” read one sign blaming the government for widespread despair over the economic crisis

Ayman Rahma, from the NGO Embrace, said suicide reports had doubled this year – jumping from an average of 200 per month last year to between 400 and 500 per month this year.

Embrace, which developed the first suicide prevention hotline in Lebanon, has a team of highly trained operators who provide suicide risk assessment and emotional support seven days a week.

“This year, we received 1,768 calls during the January-April period,” added Rahma, who attributed “the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic domestic violence, in addition to the deteriorating economic and financial conditions in Lebanon” for the situation.

Lebanese psychotherapist Lana Kaskas added: “Lebanon is going through unstable political, economic and financial conditions, which led citizens, especially the youths to anxiety, depression and psychological exhaustion.”