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Suicide rate rises in Gaza amid war



Unemployment, poverty and a bleak outlook have recently led many Gazans to take their own life.
These conditions are unsustainable and put the recent outbreak of war into context.
People inside the Gaza Strip have lived under harsh economic, social, and political conditions for decades.
The situation declined further after the internal Palestinian strife between Fatah and Hamas in 2007, which led to a political split from the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank.
The combination of gruelling social, political, economic and security-related complications has made life hard to endure for most Gazans and intensified psychological distress among them.
In a study conducted by the World Bank, which was published on its website, about 71% of Gazans showed symptoms indicative of depression.
These harsh realities are reflected in the rising rates of suicide in Gaza, especially among young people. Subjected to unemployment, poverty, and an inability to provide for themselves or their families, more and more young people are attempting to take their own lives.
About 71% of Gazans showed symptoms indicative of depression, according to the World Bank.
These harsh realities are reflected in the rising rates of suicide in Gaza, especially among young people.
The mother of an unemployed young Palestinian who set himself on fire holds his picture at the family’s home in Gaza City’s al-Shati refugee camp in Gaza city September 3, 2012.
Suicide attempts have been happening almost daily in Gaza, and though only a few end with death, most are being kept secret by families due to stigma and a desire to protect so-called social harmony.
However, these traditional viewpoints hardly help to mitigate suicide or identify and address its root causes.
Society in Gaza has traditionally been religiously conservative, at least to an outsider’s eye. However, this alleged conservatism has failed to provide any tangible solace to many Gazans who are living through a daily nightmare, making suicide seem like their only option.
‘Unimaginable psychological burden’
Social worker Dr Khitam Abu Awdeh says that, while no society worldwide is free of suicide, the increasing rates of suicide in Palestine are alarming.
A man carries a crying child as he walks in front of a building destroyed in an Israeli air strike in Gaza City on October 7, 2023.
“In recent years, Gaza has been witnessing an increase in the number of young people who choose death. This is somewhat of an unprecedented phenomenon in Palestinian society, which has been by and large a conservative one that adheres to religious guidelines that prohibit suicide,” she says.
Gaza residents struggling to receive free food

Gaza children struggling to receive free food

“However, several factors have conspired in recent years to make life in Gaza unbearable to many, including socio-economic hardships, the political split between Hamas and Fatah, the Israeli economic and geographical blockade, and the recurring wars,” she adds.
The result is “an unimaginable psychological burden on Gazans”, and those who consider suicide will almost certainly have experienced “a trauma too hard to handle.” This leads to suicide attempts through “hanging, self-immolation, explosives, firearms, drug overdose, or any other method.”
Young people at higher risk
“Anyone who attempts to take their own life has a bleak perspective and can find no room or space to try to start anew,” says Abu Awdeh.
“Unfortunately, almost everyone in Gaza is at risk of going through this dark tunnel, due to the lack of prospects for a better future.”
Unfortunately, almost everyone in Gaza is at risk of going through this dark tunnel, due to the lack of prospects for a better future.
However, social norms in Gaza still consider suicide to be an unacceptable social “taboo”. It’s something that is seen to bring shame to the victim’s family due to deep-rooted religious principles.
Regardless, the circumstances leading to these incidents cannot be ignored.
“Many university graduates in Gaza never find any job opportunities that match their fields of study. Moreover, if someone does find work at all, the salaries are usually very low,” says Abu Awdeh.
Gaza is the youngest population in the world. Almost half of all people living in Gaza are children. The life expectancy is 74.9.
Some children in Gaza are going to sleep thinking they may die amid the ongoing fighting in the Israel-Hamas war, according to an official with the U.N. organization focused on delivering aid to children.
“You lie in bed and the building shakes and you feel like you’re lying in a coffin,” UNICEF spokesperson James Elder, speaking from Gaza’s southernmost city of Rafah, told journalists on March 27.
“You don’t know what’s going to happen, if you’re going to get hit.”
More than five months into the war, Elder said a cease-fire and getting more aid into Gaza is critical, “A cease-fire means a child will go to bed with knowledge that they will wake up.”
He said Israel has a legal responsibility to allow more aid into Gaza and that many other aid agencies agree Israel’s restrictions mean a fraction of the supplies needed are reaching Gaza.
Those restrictions tightened following Hamas’ surprise terrorist attack on Israel on Oct. 7, 2023, killing at least 1,200 people in Israel, according to Israeli officials.
More than 32,000 Palestinians have been killed and more than 72,000 others have been injured in Gaza since then, amid Israel’s ongoing ground operations and aerial bombardment of Gaza, according to the Hamas-run Gaza Health Ministry.

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