Poverty Linked to Jump in Bali Suicides

Beyond Bali’s calm and serenity lies an upsetting fact. The suicide rate among residents of the island of Gods has been increasing sharply this year.

Luh Ketut Suryani, director of the nongovernmental Committee Against Sexual Abuse, said on Sunday that, as of August, there have been 146 suicides in Bali this year, a staggering figure compared to the 39 cases registered last year.

Speaking at an event to mark Prevent Suicide Day, Suryani said the districts of Karangasem and Buleleng had Bali’s highest suicide rates.

“The two districts also have the highest number of mentally disturbed people and people who are chained down because of their mental condition,” she said.

She added that in Karangasem, 156,116 out of 360,827 people are considered poor, while that number stands at 47,908 out of 575,038 for Buleleng.

She also said that the main reason for Balinese to commit suicide was poverty and that it is a common problem on the island, the latest example being the case of 39-year-old Ni Kadek Ariyani.

She hung herself in her Jimbaran home in August, after taking the life of her two-year-old child.

Police concluded after their investigation that Ariyani had committed suicide because she had an outstanding debt of Rp 150 million ($16,800).

Suryani said that if the government and society remain ignorant about mental welfare, the island would end up housing more than 9,000 mentally disturbed people, out of which more than 350 would likely be chained down for lack of proper treatment.

The rising suicide rate in Bali was also noted by I Ketut Widnya, a researcher from the Hindu Dharma State Institute in Denpasar.

His research shows that one in every 41,000 Balinese is likely to commit suicide.

“It’s a very high probability compared to other regions,” he said.

Separately, Bali Police spokesman Sr. Comr. Gede Sugianyar confirmed the high suicide rate and said that police have intensified cooperation with schools and religious institutions in their effort to bring the number down.

“We send counselors to schools in order to increase awareness and to prevent suicide,” he said. The program consists of four parts.

There is information about caring for and sharing with one another, religious counseling, lessons in social communication skills and an attempt to create a wider movement discrediting the notion of suicide.

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