On 4 November 2017 we lost our younger son, Taba, to suicide.
To us and those around him, he always looked so full of life and hope, smiling all the time and joking nonstop. So, what made him see his suffering so profound that he felt as if he couldn’t endure life anymore? We are left filled with, deep sorrow and many questions that remain unanswered to date.
Some people say that time heals every wound. However, we believe that it is not only time, but also what actions we take in that time, that helps us to heal from loss. In our grief, we decided that we wanted to do our best to support fellow survivors who have suffered like us after the loss of a loved one to suicide.
Taba’s death transformed us completely. We realized that sharing our own experience could help save the lives of others, and help those who have experienced a similar loss not to feel alone and abandoned.
Few months after our tragic loss, as Taba’s birthday approached in mid-February, and having decided as a bereaved family to turn our grief into something positive and constructive, we launched a rose plantation campaign and implemented it in a number of schools and nurseries, then we launched a book donation campaign for a number of small towns. We started with a library Kifri then a couple more in Darbandikhan and Sinuni.
In the meantime, we also started reaching out to fellow bereaved families who lost loved one to suicide and listened to them with empathy, shared with them our experience with the grieving process that is inevitable and provided whatever limited support we could under the name of ‘Taba Foundation’.
But we knew that was not enough. We chose to make meaning of our grief by becoming suicide prevention advocates but there was need for much more that we as a family could offer. In absence of specialized governmental and non-governmental institutions focusing systematically on suicide prevention and support for survivors, we decided to take a more systematic approach.
Our son’s story ended, but ours did not… so we founded Azhee. ‘Azhee’ is a Kurdish word that means s/he lives, because we are here celebrating the lives of the loved one we lost to suicide and honor the time they spent with us. We want others to appreciate their lives and use it happily to benefit themselves and others.
Azhee is a non-profit and non-governmental organization established in early 2019 to coordinate and focus the national efforts to reduce the loss of life by suicide and its negative implications on the survivors. Azhee is registered with the Directorate of None Governmental Organizations in the Kurdistan Region of Iraq.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among those aged 15 – 24, and the second leading cause of death among college students. About 90% of those who dies by suicide had a diagnosable and treatable mental health condition at the time of their death. However, many in society remain unaware that suicide is a national health and social problem.
We need to remember that behind every statistical figure mentioned, there is a real human being and loved ones experiencing the grief of their loss.
As founders of Azhee, we work to make our society smarter about mental health. We advocate, in the name of love, for Taba and countless others, because it can save lives. We share our grief as a reminder that you are not alone.
Whether you have experienced the loss of a loved one by suicide, have lived experience with suicide, or are an advocate for suicide prevention with no personal experience, we would like to reach out to you all. Please don’t hesitate to talk about suicide.
Please break the silence, and create a space for those who are affected by suicide to share their experience and get the required support.
Please remember that when talking about suicide, you should always do so with the goal of de-stigmatizing the issue and presenting resources for help and support to those affected by suicide as well as to those who might be just on the brink of losing their grip on life.
This is what we aim to do in Azhee.
Pakhshan & Sabah (Taba’s parents)
Our mission is to promote and advocate for the understanding and prevention of suicide and support those who have been affected by it.
A nation where fewer lives are lost through suicide, and where communities and individuals are empowered to improve their personal, social and mental wellbeing.