Calls to Lebanon’s suicide hotline rise due to impact of financial crisis

National Lifeline in Lebanon (1564) for Emotional Support and Suicide Prevention has seen an alarming increase in phone calls she receives daily.

While in 2019 the hotline received an average of five calls per day, this number increased to 25 calls per day in 2021. In addition to answering more calls daily, volunteers working on the lifeline must also manage more serious health problems. calls.

“We have never seen so many imminent calls [a person calling and sharing alarming signs of a suicide attempt or who has already started the process of ending their life]. This is unheard of because people cannot cope properly and do not have access to basic human needs. They suffer from a lot of sadness and anger,” said Ramanos, a clinical psychologist and lifeline supervisor for the non-governmental organization (NGO) Embrace, which provides mental health services in the country.

“In the long term, the feeling of helplessness and hopelessness is too strong, and people see death as the only way of relief. This country has lost its dreams and its hopes, which is very dangerous,” she added.

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Not surprisingly, the Institute for Development, Research, Advocacy and Applied Care (IDRACA), a psychological research center in Lebanon, has reported a disturbing number of suicides, with one in 20 people considering suicide. commit suicide and one in 50 people who attempt it.

According to Ramanos, it is the repetition of crises, not only in the last two years but also in the contemporary history of Lebanon, which has caused a constant deterioration in the mental health of the Lebanese.

“Every time people have to get up without mourning and without justice. Many are tired of being resilient and don’t have the strength to get up,” she told Al Arabiya English. every crisis or war in the country over the past decades, the reconstruction has been very fast and people have not had time to realize what they have been through,” she said.

“We are in a situation of permanent insecurity without interruption, and we do not know when something will happen again,” she added.

Last donation of drugs stored at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, Lebanon. (Photo: Clement Gibon)

Poverty plays a role

The scale of the current crisis also makes the situation particularly complicated. According to the World Bank, the economic and financial situation in Lebanon could be considered one of the most serious crises in the world since the middle of the 19th century.

At the same time, the population affected by multidimensional poverty has almost doubled, from 42% in 2019 to 82% of the total population in 2021.

Without renewing their passports, the Lebanese find themselves trapped in their own country with no prospects for the future. Mohammad Ghadieh, an 18-year-old economics student at the Lebanese American University, describes a particularly complicated daily life.

“We all suffer from some kind of mental illness, stress or even depression because we are very concerned about our financial situation, our education and all aspects of life in the country. It’s getting harder and harder to envision a future in Lebanon, but we don’t really have a choice,” Ghadieh said.

In addition to being a major stressor, the crisis in Lebanon has also had a considerable impact on the health sector. The shortage of drugs prevents people who develop mental illnesses from getting treatment, while it aggravates those who have already been diagnosed.

The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that 40% of doctors and 30% of nurses in the country have left Lebanon.

Fadi Maalouf, head of the department of psychiatry at the American University of Beirut Medical Center, reported a sense of hopelessness among patients and medical professionals.

“Many of my colleagues have moved abroad and are no longer available in healthcare practices. Patients are left without therapy or treatments,” Maalouf said.

Post-it note board at Embrace Community Mental Health Center where patients and caregivers can leave words of encouragement.  (Photo: Clement Gibon)

Post-it note board at Embrace Community Mental Health Center where patients and caregivers can leave words of encouragement. (Photo: Clement Gibon)

Moreover, the mental health professionals who remained in Lebanon have had to deal with far more patients than they can handle.

“Sometimes we are helpless because we feel we cannot help everyone,” he added.

Due to the crisis and the lack of proper health care, mental illnesses such as depression, anxiety and chronic stress have developed nationwide.

post-traumatic stress disorder

At the same time, the Beirut port explosion left many people showing signs of post-traumatic stress disorder without proper care. On the other hand, others cannot grieve properly due to the country’s culture of impunity.

“We haven’t had time to mourn properly because there is no justice, and each time the reconstruction is very fast without even processing what we have been through,” Ramanos explained.

“People have been through a lot of separations with the blast, or parents traveling. For us, it’s very difficult because we’re a supportive community with friends and family around. That’s why a lot of people no longer feel at home in their own country,” Ramanos said.

Despite a determined team of 130 volunteers at Embrace and a significant adaptation of the medical sector to the crisis in Lebanon, they are particularly concerned about the future of the country and a further deterioration in the mental health of the population.

Last summer, the Embrace center had to close its offices several times due to fuel shortages, and they fear repeating this scenario. For his part, Fadi Maalouf foresees an increasingly unbearable situation for the population if the economic crisis is not resolved.

“Unfortunately, if the crisis continues, we will see more difficult days. I am not very optimistic for the future because the longer the stress, the more the crisis affects people and the less they can cope. We can expect a tipping point where people can no longer cope. »

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