When Arif Hossain was in university, one of his roommates, Hasan Mahamud, had once asked if he knew about any poison that would ensure a quick death. Arif jokingly named one knowing nothing about the prolonged spell of depression that Hasan was in.
However, observing Hasan's lifestyle and conduct closely, Arif noticed quite a few changes that made him shudder and realise the gravity of his friend's situation. Despite Hasan's resistance to open up, Arif got him to share his suicidal thoughts.
As those talking sessions went on for a while, Hasan seemed to have got over his suicidal obsessions. Three years on, Hasan is now a promising young banker.
"I believe those talks helped him a lot to change his decision," said Arif.
Not every young man, however, is as lucky to have an empathetic listener like Arif. In fact, the lack of timely help, professional or other wise, is what accounts for the burgeoning rate of suicide among the country's youths.
According to a Daily Star research analysis based on reports of suicide published in the newspaper from January 2010 to October 2014, students and housewives are among the groups most vulnerable to suicide.
Thirty four percent suicide victims belong to the age group of 19-25 years, 30 percent to 13-18 years and 19 percent to 26-35 years, The Daily Star analysis shows.
Psychologist Mehtab Khanam observes:
"Teenagers go through physical changes and hormone secretion increases. Besides, there are frequent mood swings and they also suffer from identity crisis. So they remain emotionally vulnerable."
Adults belonging to the group of 25-35 years find themselves under a lot of family and social pressures. Their suicidal attempts are often prompted by their failure to meet the expectations of them, she said.
However, after 35, most people usually settle down, she added.
Among students, 40 percent of the male and 17 percent of the female who committed suicide did so after being rebuked over study by their parents.
Khanam, professor of educational and counselling psychology at the Dhaka University, said: "Boys go through stress due to the pressure for study as doing well in exams helps them get good jobs."
In many countries there is helpline that provides emotional and counselling support to students before examinations and after results, Khanam said.
"In Kolkata, they even increase the number of phones to deal with these cases," she said.
She said the authorities of different educational institutions should open such services by employing trained professionals to help students deal with their stress over examinations and results.
The DS analysis also brings out a number of other causes of suicide that include love affair disapproved by family, failure of parents to meet their children's demands, and divorce and remarriage of parents.
"Parents meet their children's demands immediately since there are only a few children in a family these days. Thus children get used to quick gratification of their demands," Khanam said, explaining how parents' failure to meet children's demands causes emotional shocks to the latter.
"Even if the parents can afford something that the children are asking for, they should delay giving it," she said.
Khanam also blamed the stressful urban life that causes anxiety and depression among children. "Parents' anxiety is often transferred to the children. The emotional climate of the family is often not healthy," she said.
But the most important thing to prevent suicidal attempts is people's awareness of what constitutes a suicidal symptom and how to address it, she noted.
"Since parents and society as a whole are not aware of mental health issues, they cannot identify the behavioural changes that constitute suicidal symptoms, which, as a result, remain unattended and are reflected upon only after someone has attempted or committed suicide," she said.
Khanam stressed that even if someone spoke only once of committing suicide, it should be taken seriously and psychological help should be provided immediately and very sincerely.
According to a World Health Organisation report, in richer countries men commit suicide three times as many as women do. However, in Bangladesh, as the DS study shows, rate of women's suicide is almost double that of men's.
Nehal Karim, professor of sociology at DU, said: "Women do not find alternative solutions to problems such as physical and mental torture by husbands, sexual harassment and violence, and the society's tendency to blame and demean victimised women."
Resultantly, women who are wronged do not feel they would get justice and so they choose suicide as an alternative, he said.
"In developed countries, women and children's complaints are taken up instantly and sometimes men become victims of false complaints," Karim said. "But here there is no social security for women. There are laws which are seldom implemented. Law enforcement agencies are constricted by many limitations and are often influenced by the rich and the powerful."
The Daily Star study shows that 70 percent housewives who committed suicide did so after rows with their husbands.
According to Bangladesh Mahila Parishad's statistics based on reports of 13 daily newspapers, 16 women committed suicide as a result of stalking and 290 were forced to take their lives in the wake of different forms of violence perpetrated on them in the last nine months.
The only private helpline that currently exists in Bangladesh to deal with suicidal thoughts is Kaan Pete Roi which has started its journey since April 2013. Its facebook page is at https:// www.facebook.com/kaan.pete.roi.
Rozy Hossain, helpline coordinator of Kaan Pete Roi, said: "We train listeners about how to handle calls and make referrals when necessary. The references include information about legal and other professional services."
According to Mehtab Khanam, mass awareness about mental health is crucial to prevent suicidal deaths.
"Increasing the number of institutes that provide training on counselling practice, of psychiatrists and of parenting programmes about the social, ethical and emotional development of children is required to develop a mentally sound society," she said.