Suicide rates have reached unprecedented levels in Palestine as economic conditions keep deteriorating and political solutions seem more distant than ever.
According to a report issued by the Ramallah police Planning and Research Department, there have been 250 suicide attempts since the beginning of 2009 with eight deaths. In the Gaza Strip, there were 95 attempts and seven deaths.
Suicide attempts mostly prevail amongst the young, especially amongst those under 21 years old, said Saber Khalifa, spokesman for the Hamas police in the Gaza strip.
“The deplorable conditions in which Palestinians live are the main reason,” he told Al Arabiya. “What they have been through since the war on Gaza can not to be downplayed.”
Khalifa added that the police and human rights organizations played a major role in interfering in most of those attempts, saving people.
Authorities in Ramallah however, are reluctant to link suicide attempts to the political condition in the occupied territories.
The rise of suicide rates in the West Bank, with an average of three attempts per day, is due to lack of religious principles as well as family problems, said a source in the Palestinian police media bureau from Ramallah.
What they have been through since the war on Gaza can not to be downplayed
Saber Khalifa, spokesman for the Hamas police
Social and economic reasons
“The reason is not political, but mainly social and economic,” he told Al Arabiya. “Poverty, domestic violence, and unemployment are the main reasons.”
The source added that 14 out of the 250 attempts were also for ethical reasons.
According to police statistics, the percentage of women trying to commit suicide is higher than that of men. Out of the total 250 cases, 60.6 percent were women, usually between 16 and 45 years old.
Common attempts to commit suicide in Palestine include drinking chemical substances, drug overdoses, wrist- slitting and jumping from high altitudes.
Dr. Fadel Abu Hein, professor of psychology at al-Aqsa University and director of the Community Training Center for Crisis Management (CTCM) in Gaza, said that people want to end their lives when they lose hope and become unable to adapt to the reality around them.
“For many Palestinians, death is better than life,” he told Al Arabiya. “They have reached a degree of depression that makes them lose interest in life.”
Poverty, domestic violence, and unemployment are the main reasons
Source in the Palestinian police media bureau
Abu Hein sees the siege imposed on the Gaza Strip as the main reason behind the rising rate of suicide attempts.
“Every aspect of their lives is affected by the blockade. They became enclosed upon themselves and unable to communicate with the outside world. They cannot travel, marry, get an education, or buy basic goods from outside the strip.”
The massive destruction that followed the latest Israeli aggression in December 2008-January 2007 is another reason that makes Palestinians in Gaza want to end their lives, Abu Hein added.
“They look around them and see the damage caused by the war and they feel so helpless and unable to do anything, so they become desperate and want to end their lives.”
Abu Hein added that even personal problems that cause Palestinians to commit suicide are mostly related to the political situation. He cited the example of a girl he was treating who wanted to end her life because of problems with her husband.
“This is because of the blockade. Before that her husband used to work and he used to have a good income. Now, he is unemployed and unable to provide for his family.”
As a result, Hein added, the husband started losing his temper and mistreating his wife and children. The wife, unable to handle the pressure, decided to commit suicide.
Although the West Bank is not besieged like the Gaza Strip, Abu Hein argues that Israel's blockades are still the main reason behind suicide attempts.
“There are hundreds of barriers and checkpoints, Palestinians in the West Bank are isolated from their compatriots in Gaza, and social life and economic conditions are affected by the pressure Israel is exercising on Palestinians,” he concluded.
(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).
Every aspect of their lives is affected by the blockade. They became enclosed upon themselves and unable to communicate with the outside world. They cannot travel, marry, get an education, or buy basic goods from outside the strip
Dr. Fadel Abu Hein, professor of psychology