CAIRO: Around 104,000 Egyptians attempted to commit suicide in 2009, according to the Central Agency for Public Mobilization and Statistics (CAPMAS).
More than 60 percent of these cases were between ages 15 and 25.
Over 5,000 of those 104,000 died, according to a study by Cabinet’s Information and Decision Support Center (IDSC).
“Religion is supposed to make suicide rates in Islamic societies the lowest. This is the theory. The practice is different. There is emphasis on religious facade and symbolism more than the practice,” said Said Sadek, Sociology professor at the American University in Cairo.
He also pointed out that suicide figures are not accurate as people consider it shameful for the family and hide it; they usually report it as an accident.
“The increasing level of suicide in Egypt reflects a failing socio-economic and political system, it is a ringing alarm to the entire country,” noted Sadek.
Over the past 12 months, the National Center for Toxins said that 11,000 from Cairo and Giza, including 8,500 females and 2,500 males, were poisoned as they attempted suicide using pesticides or drugs.
“Women attempting suicide more than men indicate the growing pressure on women,” said Sadek.
According to the IDSC study, suicide has been a growing phenomenon in the past four years. In 2005, there were 1,160 suicide cases which more than doubled in 2006 to 2,335 cases.
In 2007, there were 3,700 cases and in 2008 the number reached 4,200, finally breaking 5,000 in 2009.
“Deteriorating socio-economic conditions with almost 42 percent of Egyptians living below the poverty line drive some young women and men to seek an escape from life. To them living a miserable, unhappy life with no future is the same as death,” explained Sadek.
“Egyptian youth are desperate about the future. They do not see a gleam of hope. Some even take the risk of trying to escape from Egypt illegally in boats operated by gangs … [they] are also desperate,” said Sadek.
"Socioeconomic conditions are not sufficient to lead to suicide. These conditions must cause mental illness or depression that leads to suicide. Not every poor person or a broken love relationship leads to suicide," he added.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there are approximately one million suicides worldwide every year. On average, almost 3,000 people commit suicide daily. For every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives. Over the past 45 years, suicide rates have increased by 60 percent around the world.
The WHO is marking World Suicide Prevention Day on Sept. 10 to promote worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides.
The sponsoring International Association for Suicide Prevention, the co-sponsor WHO and other partners advocate for the prevention of suicidal behavior, provision of adequate treatment and follow-up care for people who attempted suicide, as well as responsible reporting of suicides in the media, WHO stated.
“At the global level, awareness needs to be raised that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death. Governments need to develop policy frameworks for national suicide prevention strategies. At the local level, policy statements and research outcomes need to be translated into prevention programs and activities in communities,” said the statement by WHO.