Psychological autopsy crucial to prevent suicide

S M Yasir Arafat | Published: May 08, 2019 21:02:16

Suicide is a global public health problem which is the outcome of complex interaction of numerous factors such as genetics, individual psychology, surrounding social factors, and cultural issues. What stipulates a person to take own life is still unanswered in specific fashion, and this acts as a prime obstacle in suicide research.

Psychological autopsy studies (PAS) have been considered the most valuable, systematic as well as straight research tool to determine the relation of any specific risk factor and suicide by tracing psychological and contextual issues before death from the proxy respondents. In suicidology, it has been postulated that not less than 90 per cent of those who kill themselves by suicide suffer from at least one psychiatric disorder.

Bangladesh is a developing country in South Asia with high density of population and dearth of research on suicide. Studies reveal a quite different socio-demography and risk factors of suicide in Bangladesh. A significant portion of suicides happen here as a result of emotionally charged events. Females are dying more than males.  Early adulthood (20-30 years) is the most risky time of life in Bangladesh context which is quite different from developed countries.

Mental disorders as risk factor of suicide have been poorly studied in the country. Countries those conducted PAS found psychiatric disorders as important risk factors of suicide. They considered preventive strategies based on the findings of PAS.  Psychological autopsy is an immediate and unmet need in Bangladesh to determine the psychiatric disorder. The findings of psychological autopsy in Bangladesh could be different from the existing picture of the developed world.

As a global public health problem, World Health Organisation (WHO) called on its members to develop and implement national suicide prevention strategy which has been grossly under-achieved by the developing nations. Bangladesh is not an exception. There had been studies on suicide in Bangladesh. However, nationwide studies focusing on risk factors of suicide are yet to be conducted.

Without adequate determination of local and cultural risk factors of suicide, formulation of national suicide prevention strategy may by a foolish act. As documented from previous studies, psychiatric disorders play significant role in overall suicide rate. Proper management of mental illness is an important prevention strategy. For the sake of formulation of successful national suicide prevention strategy, PAS is certainly an unmet need in Bangladesh.

Attention of local as well as global scientific community, policy makers, researchers, funders, academicians and other stakeholders are crucial regarding PAS in Bangladesh which would reveal mental aspects of suicide as well as could be the baseline data for ascertaining the appropriate suicide prevention strategy in Bangladesh.


Dr. SM Yasir Arafat is assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry, CARe Medical College,

Dhaka, Bangladesh


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