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Suicide is increasing in Gaza.. How Palestinian youth escape the bitterness of their reality!

Suicide is increasing in Gaza.. How Palestinian youth escape the bitterness of their reality!

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Life Marginalized Groups Basic Rights

Tuesday 19 September 202311:59 am
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In the face of mounting debts, deteriorating physical and mental health, and a bleak job market, 31-year-old Hamza al-Daghma reached a point of complete despair and made a heartbreaking choice to escape the hardships of life in the Gaza Strip. He set up an execution guillotine that he made with his own hands in the middle of his dilapidated home, adorned with zinc panels, situated in the southern city of Khan Yunis.

Hamza, a father of two children, the oldest of whom is barely 6 years old, chose to rid himself from the burdens placed upon him, the lack of food and medicine, after suffering a 'bone nail' injury, in addition to being legally pursued by the police due to his accumulated debts. He chose to leave his reality by committing suicide and ending his life with his own hands, according to what Iyad Al-Daghma, his cousin, told Raseef22.

“He was like a walking deadman. His every thought was about how to get treatment, food, and job opportunities that could provide for his children and help him pay off part of the accumulated debts after he had repaired his house," Iyad said.

Escaping reality

The suicide of the young man al-Daghma has sparked a great deal of anger and outrage on social media among citizens, with some blaming local authorities as the cause, given the deteriorating economic and living conditions, and the spread of frustration and depression that drive many to make the decision to end their lives, as social media activists point out.

Hamza's case was not the first of its kind nor the last. Social media was filled with a post written by the young poet Muhammad Nabil al-Najjar (27 years old), in which he stated that he was forced to leave this world after exhausting all his efforts and attempts to recover from depression over an 8-year period.

Al-Najjar departed from life seconds after posting his message on his personal Facebook page, taking his own life with a hand grenade that he detonated himself, apologizing in his final message to all those he had caused pain to, as he could no longer bear the internal suffering, as he mentioned.

According to the latest survey conducted by the World Bank and the Palestinian Central Bureau of Statistics, more than half of the Palestinian society is suffering from depression, with 71% of the population in the Gaza Strip, 50% in the West Bank, and 58% of those over 18 years old being affected.

Hamza, a father of two, chose to escape the bitterness of the living conditions in the Gaza Strip and set up an execution guillotine that he made with his own hands in the middle of his dilapidated home in the city of Khan Yunis in the southern part of Gaza

According to the survey, the percentage of those living below the extreme poverty line reached 50%, and those below that were 70%. Additionally, those who work longer hours are susceptible to common mental health disorders that are directly related to extreme poverty.

Meanwhile, the suicide of the young lawyer Yusuf al-Nouri, aged 34, in northern Gaza in August of the previous year, during which the number of young suicides reached three, created a significant shock in the community amid a state of anger and profound sadness.

Yahya al-Nouri, the brother of the young man who took his own life, said in his conversation with Raseef22 that his brother had accumulated financial, psychological, and social pressures after being involved in cases of fraud and scams by several individuals. This pushed him to end his life through suicide.

Al-Nouri further adds that "his brother was subjected to injustice, harassment, and attempts to target him personally by influential individuals working in the Gaza government, and he was unable to obtain justice for himself, so he killed himself, leaving behind three children."

Since the beginning of this year until the end of August, 17 cases of suicide have been recorded, reflecting a noticeable increase in the numbers, especially considering that the previous year saw 25 suicide cases, with 553 others attempting to end their lives, according to the latest statistics from the Mezan Center for Human Rights in the Gaza Strip.

Motives for suicide

Yasser Abu Jamea, the General Director of the Gaza Mental Health Program, describes the primary reasons behind the rising suicide cases as related to the deteriorating economic, social, living, and community conditions, along with increasing unemployment and poverty. It's not solely due to mental illness.

Abu Jamea tells Raseef22 that the recurrence of suicide cases (two to three cases per week) encourages others, especially since over half of the population in the Gaza Strip is suffering from difficult circumstances and depression due to poor living conditions.

He explains that the absence of awareness, integrated and comprehensive programs to address this phenomenon, and the lack of a community effort to equip young people with the necessary skills for various fields, all contribute to pushing individuals towards the worst form of escapism, which is suicide.

He emphasizes that suicide in no way provides a solution to any issue or problem: "It is unreasonable to think that ending one's life can solve a problem or bring about a resolution in this reality."

Abu Jamea states that there is a significant amount of funds that should be spent on addressing unemployment and providing job opportunities but are instead used to pay off government debts, without being utilized for projects and job creation. There is room for creating a better reality through a comprehensive outlook on the Gaza Strip.

Regarding the state of mental health in the Gaza Strip, he points out that they face a problem with the available therapeutic resources that restrict their work. This is particularly evident in the severe shortage of psychiatric medical professionals, with their number not exceeding 300 individuals in the Gaza Strip, while the population exceeds two million citizens. Additionally, there is a lack of the necessary treatment and medication for psychological therapy.

He adds that in addition to these challenges, citizens tend to avoid seeking mental health services, fearing being labeled as mentally ill. This coincides with the lack of awareness about the importance and necessity of psychological treatment.

Many citizens prefer to turn to alternative medicine and Quranic therapy, considering their issues as a result of magic or envy, among other things. This is due to the fear of social stigma and the narrow and inherited view of society towards those suffering from mental illness.

"My brother was subjected to injustice, harassment, and attempts to target him personally by influential individuals working in the Gaza government, and he was unable to obtain justice for himself, so he killed himself, leaving behind three children."

It is worth noting that psychological treatment services are provided by two entities, namely the government's psychiatric hospital and the mental health centers affiliated with the Ministry of Health, as well as the Gaza Mental Health Program (a non-governmental organization).

Abu Jamea emphasizes that the most important aspect in all of this is the need for an improvement in the living conditions, which are deteriorating and adversely affecting the mental well-being of citizens in the Gaza Strip.

What is the role of the authorities?

In light of the difficult economic and living conditions resulting from the 16-year political division and the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, along with the increasing cases of suicide in society, what is the role of local authorities and responsible entities in Gaza?

Here, the head of the Economic and Financial Budget Committee in the Palestinian Legislative Council, Deputy Yahya Al-Abbadsa, states that the phenomenon of suicide is dangerous, prevalent, and foreign to our Palestinian society. However, when we talk about the causes of this phenomenon, it is related to social dimensions, which are the primary cause, and the social relationships within families, which may be the main reason.

Al-Abbadsa adds in his conversation with Raseef22 that the difficult living conditions resulting from the closure of Gaza society for 20 years and the Israeli blockade are the second reason for the increase in this phenomenon.

Regarding their role in local authorities, the deputy from the "Hamas" movement says that addressing this phenomenon and mental illnesses and depression is not solely in their hands. It also depends on the improvement of economic and living conditions linked to lifting the Israeli blockade on the Gaza Strip, as he describes it.

Al-Abbadsa blames the occupation authorities, accusing them of wanting to keep Gaza between life and death and creating a difficult psychological and living situation to pressure them to surrender their program and their capabilities. He also stresses that "the papers for improving conditions are not all in the hands of the local authorities, which bear great responsibility and do not evade or underestimate it when it comes to the affairs of the citizens," according to his words.

He points out that they direct religious institutions and mosques for preaching, guidance, and awareness "in the face of the spread of such behaviors in our society," adding at the same time: "We live in a digital world that has become a kind of trivialization industry, and everyone can enter social media sites and justify what is attributed to the authority within the context of political conflicts. In the end, this phenomenon, according to the religious perspective, is condemned and rejected."

Despite the religious sermons usually given during Friday prayers on the issue of suicide and its prohibition, many citizens mockingly ridicule the preachers after the prayers for ignoring the reality that has led to this situation, as observed by a Raseef22 correspondent in the recent period.

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