An important baseline study undertaken | 2019-06-20

Psychological autopsy study in Bangladesh

An important baseline study undertaken

Dr. SM Yasir Arafat

20 June, 2019 12:00 AM printer

Suicide is an under-attended public health issue in Bangladesh. Fortunately, studies on suicide are coming out more than it had in previous years. Recently, S M Yasir Arafat and his colleagues started a psychological autopsy study (PAS). In order to formulate the suicide prevention strategies, this was much needed and important as PAS unveiled the risk factors of suicide.

Prof. Murad M Khan (current president of International Association for Suicide Prevention) at the Aga Khan University, Pakistan has been supervising the research as an external supervisor and Prof. Md. Abdul Mohit, Director cum Professor at the National Institute of Mental Health; Dhaka, Bangladesh has been supervising it as a local supervisor. Ethical clearance was obtained from National Institute of Mental Health, Dhaka, Bangladesh on May 2019.

Current PAS will be aimed at determining the risk factors of suicide in Bangladesh which is a mandatory issue in preventing suicide. A total of 200 (100 cases and 100 controls) people next to their families will be interviewed with semi structured questionnaire in a face to face setting. Suicide cases will be identified from the morgues of medical colleges and matched controls will be identified from the communities. Pre-tested questionnaire will be formulated which will include: socio-demographic factors, psychiatric diagnosis, suicide variables, and a list of life events.

It is expected that the current study will reveal: the risk factors of suicide, roles of psychiatric disorders as risk factors and life events before suicide. These are fundamental issues which need to be looked into for initiating suicide prevention activities in Bangladesh.

Bangladesh is a developing country in South Asia with a very high population density but little to no research has been done on suicide. No psychological autopsy studies, involving the population of Bangladesh, have been reported either. After some studies were carried out, repeated researches revealed quite a different socio-demography and risk factors of suicide in Bangladesh. A significant portion of suicides happen here as a result of mundane emotionally charged events; with the female population being more vulnerable to the issue than the male population and early adulthood (20–30 years) being the most perilous period of life. This situation is rather different from the conditions at the developed countries. Moreover, even though mental disorders are one of the most important risk factors which contribute to suicides, it is neglected. Countries which conducted PAS found psychiatric disorders to be among the most important risk factors of suicide and thus, preventive strategies have been considered based on the findings of PAS. Hence, to deem psychiatric disorders as an important risk factor of suicide in Bangladesh, a nationwide representative psychological autopsy needs to be carried out. The findings of a psychological autopsy in Bangladesh could be different from existing findings at the developed countries.  

As the study started with personal investments, researchers have been facing financial constraints and no fund has been obtained for the study yet, although authors have been trying. Funders from multiple spheres of life could donate some money to the cause if they had the will and the money to do so. Authors could draw attention of the local, as well as the global scientific community-policy makers, researchers, funders, academicians and other stakeholders- to the fund crisis for this important study.


The writer is an Assistant Professor at the Department of Psychiatry, Care Medical College, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He can be reached at [email protected]