Exploring the phenomenon of suicidal behaviour (SB): An explanatory, mixed-method study in rural Pakistan

Abdul Wahab Yousafzai, Sheraz Ahmad Khan, Shakila Bano, Murad Moosa Khan

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Despite scientific literature and media reports of rising cases of suicide and attempted suicide in different parts of Pakistan, the extent of this problem remains unknown, particularly from outside the main urban centres of the country. Aims: To report data on Suicidal Behaviour (SB) from Malakand Division, a rural and marginalised part of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK) province, explore aetiological factors and propose preventive strategies. Methods: This study followed an explanatory, mixed-method study design. The first part quantitative [QUANT] comprised of police reports on suicidal behaviour, from 2001 till first 8 months of 2018. Detailed analysis of only data from 2013 was undertaken, as data prior to 2013 contained insufficient information. The second part that is, qualitative (QUAL) consisted of in-depth interviews with relevant stakeholders. A mixed method of inductive and deductive analytical approach was used. Results: From 2013 until the first quarter of 2018, the police recorded 1,645 attempts of both males and females of which 144 (8.75%) resulted in fatalities. Suicide attempts rose by 83.4% over the 5 years and 8 months. Approximately, 43.3% of the attempts were attributed to ‘depression’. Domestic abuse was reported in 49.6% of cases. Of the total victims, 1,049 (63.7%) were females, whereas 60.1% were married. Ingestion of the organophosphates poison (pesticide) was reported in 53.2% (n = 999) of suicide attempts. In more than 90% of the non-fatal suicide attempts, victims were booked under punitive laws. Poor socio-economic status, inter-personal stressors, violence against women and mental illnesses were the major causes of suicidal behaviour in Malakand [QUAL]. Investment in human development, strengthening of the healthcare system, de-stigmatisation of mental illnesses and women empowerment could possibly prevent suicidal behaviour in Malakand [QUAL]. Conclusion: SB in Malakand Division is steadily increasing. The increase is more evident in vulnerable populations such as women and the younger population. ‘Psychosocial stressors’ and ‘depression’ were the main causes of suicidal behaviour. A broad-based, proactive, multi-sectorial approach is needed to prevent SB in the region.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1629-1635
Number of pages7
JournalInternational Journal of Social Psychiatry
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022


  • Malakand division
  • Pakistan
  • Suicidal behaviour
  • domestic violence
  • mental health laws
  • terrorism


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