One person in the world completes suicide every 40 seconds.
More than 800,000 deaths each year are attributed to suicide.
By 2020, it is predicted that one death every 20 seconds will be caused by suicide. (Cornain, 2018)
With an increase in deaths by suicide within recent years, it is necessary that we, as a population and a community, improve our awareness and understanding of this issue. Suicide, the taking of one’s own life, can be the unfortunate result of complex personal problems, and in many cases, mental illness that has not been sufficiently treated or attended to. Thankfully, however, it is us, the friends and family of a person contemplating or idealising suicide, who can act as a barrier. It is through our willingness to listen compassionately and nonjudgmentally, that we can show a person who may be struggling emotionally that they are not alone, and that they have people who care deeply for them. The next step is professional help, whether it be in the form of a GP, counsellor, psychologist or psychiatrist.
People try not to speak of it, to deny it, avoid seeking or offering help until it is too late. There is a stigma surrounding mental illness and suicide that is yet to be broken in countless countries around the world, including Indonesia.
The average rate of death in Indonesia due to suicide is 24 per 100,000 of the population.
Deaths caused by suicide are increasing at a steady rate in Indonesia.
In 2006, approximately 100,000 people in Jakarta died by suicide. (Wirasto, 2012)
As of 2016 in Indonesia, 5.2 per 100,000 males and 2.2 per 100,000 females died by suicide. While many factors can account for this distinct difference, most include gender-specific vulnerabilities in psychology and biology. There is a global pattern to this, with rates of suicide in most countries being higher in women than men (China being the exception) (Vijayakumar, 2015).
Suicide is the unfortunate result of a complex accumulation of numerous risk factors experienced by a person, accompanied by an overwhelming feeling of helplessness. Economical problems can expose an individual, particularly those with the sole financial responsibility for their families, to undue stress and emotional exhaustion. As a result, lower-to-middle class citizens are at a higher risk of suicide than higher-class Indonesians.
In Gunung Kidul, there is a cultural phenomenon termed “pulung gantung”- a superstition held by locals that a person who dies by suicide has done so as a result of being visited by a mysterious light the night before, or an omen. While in reality, the steady incline of suicide rate within this regency can be mainly attributed to an increase in the prevalence of mental illness, particularly among the elderly population, cultural factors have prompted inhabitants to believe suicide as a direct result of supernatural causes, and therefore unpreventable. Thus those who experience mental illness are discouraged from seeking help, and place themselves at a heightened vulnerability of contributing to this very statistic.
Another province in Indonesia associated with high suicide rates is Bali. Of those who died by suicide within this area, 33.9% also experienced serious physical illness that placed them under severe emotional stress and trauma (Wirasto, 2012).
While the latest efforts in Indonesia to reduce suicide rates include the enforcement of a help line, physicians are also being educated on their primary role in suicide prevention, particularly through early detection, management and school programs that raise awareness of suicide among adolescents.
'The number of psychiatrists in the country is a mere 820. Of course it is not enough … these psychiatrists are available only in major cities.’
- Danardi Sosrosumihardjo, chairman of the Indonesian Psychiatrists Association (PDSKJI)
Much can be done to treat an individual once they are found at risk of suicide, however the aspect of prevention is currently being ignored. The stigma surrounding mental illness is fatal. It prevents people from seeking support and help, at potentially the most crucial point in their lives, and adds fear and uncertainty when they are already struggling. The problem is ultimately at the core, not only of Indonesian society, but our population as a whole: we need to erase the stigma surrounding mental illness. Only then can healing happen.