Today the 10th of September, when I browsed through my whatsapp I came across a post informing me that today is “World Suicide Prevention Day”. Immediately, a face popped out of memory, a face which I remember vividly of my patient whom I lost to suicide some 5 years back. It's not an easy memory, painful it is. So I thought that I will do my bit on today's occasion and write something about suicide prevention.
I have taken the title from a documentary from 2006 on the topic. It actually is about the Golden Gate bridge, one of the most beautiful man made structures and rightfully one of the most photographed. Unfortunately, It is a very common suicide point. Another face with the mention of the word bridge that pops out is VG Siddhartha, Founder of CCD(Cafe Coffee Day) whom we lost to this malady called suicide.
According to the WHO we lose some 800,000 souls to suicide every year ie roughly 2200 each day.India is no different and we all are aware of headlines screaming out farmer distress and suicides. The reasons for the same are a different topic.
I will focus in this blog as to what can be done to prevent this unfortunate event. To quote “Jamison”…. “the mental suffering leading up to it is usually prolonged, intense, and unpalliated. There is no morphine equivalent to ease the acute pain, and death not uncommonly is violent and grisly. The suffering of the suicidal is private and inexpressible, leaving family members, friends, and colleagues to deal with an almost unfathomable kind of loss, as well as guilt. Suicide carries in its aftermath a level of confusion and devastation that is, for the most part, beyond description.”
What to look for in a person you suspect of being Suicidal?
We Psychiatrists deal with individuals who feel life is not worth living,Who are suicidal,contemplating,planning suicide day in and day out. But what can a friend,family member, colleague look out for?The most important thing is a change in behaviour from the usual self. Somebody who has started avoiding conversations,get together s, basically has started avoiding social contact is at risk. If they appear pessimistic,sad,downtrodden voicing hopelessness, helplessness and their behaviour has changed they become tearful over small issues, lose temper easily have become pessimistic this should raise concern. Many a times not only normal people but also Doctors find it hard to deal with such individuals.
How to deal with someone you suspect is harbouring suicidal tendencies?
The first and most important thing is to open up communication and asking routine things like How are you? You don't seem to be your usual self these days? Is something wrong at your end? Once the person opens up it is very important to listen to him patiently and giving him/her the chance to voice their concerns and issues in a supportive and nonjudgmental way. At times one has to be very direct. Somehow, there’s a myth that asking about suicide promotes it. This is absolutely wrong. One has to remember that for almost all suicide is a way out of intense emotional pain. How many times do we hear what happened is really sad. He had everything going for him,name fame,money,a good family. The list of lost celebrities is endless. Be aware of your own feelings and attitude. Some of us think suicide is sinful, the weak way out. Remember we all are humans and we have our limits. Even a computer after a particular load crashes.
Research tells us that almost all individuals at the time of suicide are mentally unwell, mostly depressed. If you suspect …..simply ask. Be there for them, show you care, and if things are not working out or taking a turn for the worst do not be afraid to suggest that the person seeks professional help. Most people improve and are able to bounce back. Remember bridges are made for one to be able to cross over hurdles. Be that bridge for someone.