On Monday, September 10, 2018, the Student Services department at American University of Iraq, Sulaimani (AUIS) hosted a workshop with University Counselor Frishta Kewe to mark World Suicide Prevention Day. The workshop was the first in a series of Counseling Services Seminars (CSS) scheduled to take place during the Fall 2018 semester.
Kewe began the workshop with a presentation on causes, at-risk communities, and how to recognize warning signs of those suffering from depression, as well as global and local statistics on suicide.
“Data in Kurdistan is not as good as we wish it was,” Kewe said, adding that accurate numbers in the region are hard to come by, whereas suicide is the second leading cause of death worldwide among 15-29 year olds. “Even numbers reflected by the World Health Organization on this region are low - not because there are fewer cases, but because it is so stigmatized,” Kewe said.
“Generally, people with suicidal thoughts have difficulty verbalizing their emotions and experiences, especially in societies where the subject is deeply stigmatized,” Kewe continued. “A number of brave participants in the session spoke up about their own personal experiences, showing a huge step towards cultural change.”
AUIS staff member Arez Asso shared a personal experience during the second half of the workshop about how the issue has personally affected him - losing two close friends, a cousin, and most recently, his father to suicide.
“These situations helped me to think about [depression] in a different way and be more serious and listen when people talk to me about their problems,” he said, adding that the pain of losing people close to him has changed his outlook on life as well as how he treats people around him.
“I decided to be a better listener.”
After his father suffered a stroke two years ago, Asso described how a once jovial man known for being a jokester suffered from severe depression. “We saw how he was changing, he would get angry and his mood would change,” he said. Asso sensed his father’s pain and worried with each phone call that it would be bad news on the other end. His fears were realized one day when his mother called and told him to come home.
“I lost it, it was awful, I was thinking this can’t be happening again,” he said.
In dealing with the pain of the loss of a parent, Asso refused to listen to friends and relatives who urged him to not tell people his father had taken his own life due to the shame associated with suicide in society. Instead, he said he feels this story must be shared widely.
“I’m not ashamed of telling this story because it might help them, it might change their life.”
For more information on suicide prevention, visit: www.suicidepreventionlifeline.org.