Suicide itself is not a mental disorder but it is caused by underlying mental illnesses. Suicidal thoughts are a symptom of underlying conditions just like any other, they can be treated and can improve over time.
These thoughts are not an indication of some weakness or a sign of being flawed, it’s a psychiatric emergency. According to the World Health Organization, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.
As soon as we hear the news, we start forming our own hypothesis about why an individual has taken their own life. Maybe they weren’t doing well financially, maybe they had issues with their families, maybe they were weak and always sensitive, they couldn’t handle a breakup, etc. The list is never-ending.
While we can’t change the public’s perception bit for a moment if we think of it, while saying it out loud in our families or in any gathering or expressing it on our social networking sites, what if someone around us is actually having suicidal thoughts, where would it take them? Will they be able to express how they are feeling, will they consider visiting a professional or will it add more to their troubles?
In previous times, suicide was a legal matter, considered a disgraceful act, an insult to God and a legally punishable offence. Things have changed so have the laws. Under the Mental Health Care Act, 2017, suicide was decriminalised, i.e. a person who attempts suicide shall be presumed to be suffering from mental illness at that time and will not be punished under the Indian Penal Code.
Many renowned theorists have contributed to the concept of suicide, where they state that a psychiatric disorder is a necessary condition for suicide to occur. But are we accepting either of these two notions?
In order to work on helping people to deal with suicidal thoughts, we need to acknowledge and address it as a symptom of mental illness. Only then we will look out for mental health experts, else we may try to solve these behaviours with the help of faith healers, trying to fulfil materialistic needs, trapping them emotionally which in turn will have more disastrous results.
A suicide crisis, is not one person’s job to solve, we need to work on it as a community, as a whole. We need to sensitise ourselves first about it and then look out for behaviours which are indicative of suicide: reading or writing, online, about suicide or suicidal behaviours, often mentioning death in conversations, isolating or withdrawing themselves from family or social gatherings, not being able to cope well with problems, fluctuations in mood pattern, a perpetual feeling of hopelessness about the future, having lost interest in life.
Some people who are suicidal might not show these signs, people who feel suicidal might try to hide what they are going through or pretend they are okay. If you think that someone you know might be at risk, pay attention to changes in their behaviour and trust your instincts.
In a suicide crisis before offering help to the person, a lot of things will start changing, suddenly you may be in a panic mode. You may not be able to comprehend what to do, where to start from. In such times, you need to follow some guidelines which will be helpful:
· Be honest while talking to the person. Talk openly.
· Remove all the harmful objects in the surroundings, be vigilant.
· Calmly ask simple questions about their decision, if they want to talk to a
· If there are many people around, let the closest person talk about it.
· Don’t argue, threaten or raise your voice.
· Don’t raise a question about their decision.
· Express support, show warmth. Don’t try to blackmail them emotionally.
· If you’re nervous try not to reflect that on the person.
· Be patient.
· Be close to the person.
· Reach out to a professional.
We come across news about suicide by people of different backgrounds. Suicide has no uniform reason; anyone can die of suicide like anyone can die due to cancer. The most alarming thing is are we sensitising our children about suicide?
We may avoid talking about it thinking it may bring negative exposure to our child but is it the right thing to do? It surely isn’t because sooner or later they will get to know about it. A well-known suicide serves as a model for the next suicide in absence of protective factors.
It may be a suicide contagion, can spread through school system, community or through a celebrity. It’s known as copycat suicide, which is duplication or copying of another suicide that the person attempting suicide knows.
In such conditions its mandatory to create awareness among your children, Start talking to your children about mental health, how to express emotions and themselves and how suicide is a part of mental illness. How important it is to express their fears, feelings, likes, dislikes, etc.
Children are keen observers and listeners; they will pay attention to your minutest details and will notice your reactions. How you talk about suicide to others, your body language, your comments everything will colour their perception. They model parental behaviour, please make sure you become the best model for them. Reach out to your children, be there emotionally and create a safe space for them to talk about what upsets them.
Suicide needs to be addressed not stigmatised or sensationalised.
The author is pursuing M.Phil Clinical Psychology at Institute of Mental Health & NeuroSciences (IMHANS), Kashmir. She can be reached at [email protected]