World Suicide Prevention Day aims to remind governments that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death. It's also a day to revisit famous suicides, like Vincent Van Gogh's, and the ones that include the deaths of other people, suicide-homicides. A recent Pakistan news story suggests prevention of this class of suicide-homicide, where it is attempted, could lie in rescuing trained suicide attackers before they kill, and reversing brainwashing that can begin at an early age.
Dutch painter Van Gogh shot himself on 27 Jul 1890, but didn't die until two days later. Over the decades, hundreds of medical people have tried to explain his state of mind. The prevailing opinion is that he was manic depressive and epileptic, with both conditions aggravated by an absinthe habit. Suicide can be described as a final solution for extreme suffering -- and the concept of prevention runs counter to the case for assisted suicide. For whatever reason -- and sometimes no apparent reason -- about 3000 people commit suicide daily. The sponsors of the prevention day, who offer the statistic, also say that for every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives. Suicide-homicides are nothing new. Japanese Kamikaze pilots terrorized allied military shipping with their explosive-laden planes in the late stages of WWII. The 9/11 attacks on the United States claimed almost 3000 lives, and suicide-bombings are now almost daily tragedies. A Reuters story in July described the rescue of some 11 Pakistani boys who had been shown films about oppression of Muslims in the Palestinian Territories and Indian-held Kashmir, and were given purported religious instructions to convince them that they would go to Heaven if they killed enemies of Islam. "They have been brainwashed in such a way that they even call their parents infidels," Bashir Bilour, senior minister in the provincial government, told Reuters. The boys have been handed over to their parents, who in turn handed them back to the authorities because of the brainwashing. The government is working out how to rehabilitate the boys, according to the Reuters report. The sponsors of the special day--the International Association for Suicide Prevention, WHO and other associations--say governments need to develop policy frameworks for national suicide prevention strategies. They advocate the prevention of suicidal behaviour and the provision of adequate treatment and follow-up care for people who attempt suicide. They say policy statements and research outcomes need to be translated into prevention programmes and activities in communities. Jul/09
Date written/update: 2009-09-10