BEIRUT: Lebanon’s ongoing economic and political turmoil is taking its toll on the mental health of its citizens, many of whom are losing their jobs and facing overwhelming financial and psychological troubles on a daily basis.
Within less than five days, the culmination of a variety of factors has led four of Lebanon’s citizens to die of suicide.
On Thursday, Nazih Aoun ended his life in Tebnine, South Lebanon, a day after Dany Abou Haidar, a man in his early 40s, shot himself in the Sin El Fil area in public; and Antonio Tannous, an Internal Security Force member from the Akkar area, was found dead with his rifle next to him.
On Wednesday, two men attempted suicide, one by jumping off the roof of his building in Saida, and another by setting himself on fire in Akkar.
On Sunday, Naji Al Fleity, a father of two, hung himself in his home in the Ersal area.
Suicide prevention marches took place on Wednesday, where people carried posters that say “how many more suicides do you need?” directed at government officials.
In these times of distress, many Lebanese NGO’s and sympathetic groups are offering their services and assistance to alleviate any pain or difficulty their homeland’s community members may be going through.
Lea Zeinoun, Executive Director of “Embrace” told Annahar: “Mental illness has a twofold nature: one caused by biological circumstances and another by environmental surroundings, and 90% of suicides are caused by people with mental illnesses.”
“Embrace” is a local NGO, founded in 2013, dedicated to raising awareness on mental health in Lebanon and who launched the first national and emotional support and suicide prevention helpline in Lebanon.
“Within the last three hours, we have received over 25 calls expressing feelings of anxiety and distress, and four of which exhibited suicidal thoughts,” Zeinoun said, explaining that the enormous amount of stress that Lebanese citizens are currently going through might “add on the mental illness of a person and lead to suicide if left untreated.”
She continued: “When we receive calls on the suicide prevention hotline, we firstly tell our callers that politics and the economy affect our lives indirectly and directly and cause feelings of uncertainty, and it’s very normal to feel uncertain.”
“We advise them to pace themselves in times likes this in order to cope with the uncertainty and stress,” Zeinoun said, explaining that “there’s a certain amount of news the average human can tolerate, and taking a break from them is important, especially with the fake news being circulated.”
With the ongoing financial crisis, many Lebanese are struggling to provide food for their families. Maya Terro, co-founder and Executive Director at FoodBlessed, a pioneering national hunger-relief and food rescue initiative founded in 2012, told Annahar that “anyone in need can come to one of our soup kitchens and have a free meal any time they feel the need to. What’s ours is theirs. No questions asked.”
FoodBlessed keeps an updated record of all of its soup kitchen regulars who receive food assistance packages every couple of months, and not just over the holidays.
“The list is always updated,” Terro said, “Some names we already know and are our regulars, others are referred to us. This being said, anyone in need is welcomed.”
FoodBlessed’s volunteers are currently launching their Christmas food drive and are asking community members to help them collect food items for those in need, which are then packaged and distributed across Lebanon.
In the words of Ghida Husseini, counseling psychologist and managing partner at Metanoia, the stress and trauma center in the Middle East, “There are many factors that are at play for people who commit suicide.”
Husseini explained that “it’s not unusual for suicide rates to increase during times of crisis. People who are already suffering may find themselves more trapped, and revert to ending their life for the pain to stop.”
“However,” she continued, “I encourage anyone who might be suffering to seek help, there’s always a way out. I also encourage the people around friends and relatives in distress to help and listen to any suicidal reflection, since offering the needed support may save their lives.”
For anyone in need of psychological or physiological assistance, Annahar has gathered a list of local NGOs and groups who can help:
– Embrace’s suicide prevention hotline (12pm-2am): 1564
– Restart (NGO for specialized mental health services) : Tripoli +961 06 411 451 – Beirut +961 01 291 066
– FoodBlessed (NGO dedicated to hunger-relief): +961 70 159 337
– 4-A-Cause (NGO that collects fund for a variety of causes, currently dedicated to hunger-relief): firstname.lastname@example.org
– Himaya (NGO dedicated to fighting child-abuse in Lebanon): email@example.com
– ABAAD (Resource Center for Gender Equality):
• Al Dar, emergency safe sheltering for women and girl survivors or at-risk of violence, emergency line (24/7): +96176060602
• Women and Girls Safe Spaces, legal, psychosocial, referral, holistic services, safe line (24/7): +96181788178
• Men Centre, support for men who have issues with aggressive behavior or masculinities, (M-F, 9:00-17:00): +96171283820
Our thoughts and prayers go out to all victims of suicide.