I think the most significant capacity that humans possess after intelligence, is the ability to have a conversation. As we step foot into this world, language development is initiated through interactions and conversations with significant caregivers. Our life after birth is majorly influenced by people whom we talk to and by those who talk to us. The reason I mentioned ‘conversation’ is because, despite having the potential to talk about a few issues, we choose to seal these matters in a box, and we hope for the predicaments to fade away with time. Suicide is one such topic that finds its discomfort in darkness and is often graced with shame and neglect. While it is important to have a conversation about suicide and mental health, it is important to make sure that we have the right conversation. Hence, I am writing this article to bring awareness to this topic as it is key to fighting the stigma of mental health disorders and suicide. Today, there is an immense need for us to open that box and shed some light on it, to realize that we as a society can come up with solutions to protect and help ourselves or anyone we know who may be suffering.
Suicide is not a mental illness in itself, but a serious plausible consequence of treatable mental disorders that include major depression, bipolar disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), bulimia or anorexia nervosa, and many more. Suicidal thoughts can occur when a person feels that he/she is no longer able to cope with an overwhelming situation and when they feel the need to take control of their life out of grief or misery. This could stem from financial problems, social isolation, misuse and abuse of alcohol or other drugs, historical trauma, death of a loved one, a relationship breakup, rejection, remorse, sexual abuse, and unemployment. People who experience suicidal ideation (suicidal thoughts) may or may not die of suicide. However, we need to be able to assess and understand the following behaviour to identify suicide trigger signs and to reach out to someone who may need our help.
- Excessive sadness/ moodiness
- Sleep problems
- Changes in personality/ behaviour
- Dangerous or self-harmful behaviour
- Recent Trauma/ life crisis
Over 800,000 people die due to suicide every year. We need to realise that suicides are preventable. If we change the way we think, the world will change inadvertently. Mental disorders and suicide are still stigmatized. Many people who are thinking about suicide are not seeking help due to the lack of openness in society regarding this issue. Awareness needs to be created globally as this is a radical public health concern. Early identification and effective management are key to ensuring that people receive the care they need.
Communities play a crucial role in suicide prevention. Here are a few through which we can address suicide more effectively on a personal level:-
- End the stigma
Easier said than done, of course. Says journalist Andrew Solomon: “People still think that it’s shameful if they have a mental illness. They think it shows personal weakness. They think it shows failure. If it’s their children who have a mental illness, they think it reflects their failure as parents.” This self-inflicted stigma can make it difficult for people to speak about even their mental health problems.
- Listen to understand
It is not just about having a conversation, it also about active listening. When the other person is telling you about his/her life and what they are going through, try to be as non-judgemental as possible. Do not try to convince the other person that you understand what they feel and do not tell them that they are being irrational. Try to understand where they are coming from by showing empathy and compassion. You can save someone’s life simply by listening to them.
Just as tumours need not define a person, the same goes for mental illness. Insel says “We need to talk about mental illness the way we talk about medical disorders”. There is an immense need to normalise mental disorders and not call people disturbing and cruel words like ‘psycho’ and ‘crazy’.
- Give support and information
Offering genuine support to someone shows them that they matter. To do that, we must help the other person come to terms with his/her situation. If someone is expressing their suicidal thoughts to you, instead of getting intimidated or scared by their thoughts try to look for ways through which you can be of help. When you support a person they begin to trust you and they realise that they are not alone.
- Encourage Professional help
Some people do not know where to start when seeking help. Guide them in finding a suitable therapist in the area, depending on their preferences. You can contact offices on their behalf or research various professionals, their credibility and reviews. Some people are scared of seeing a therapist alone or signing up for group therapy. Offer to go with them until they’re comfortable. Seeking therapy requires great strength and courage. But, it is also a necessary step in the process of healing. So try and help them realise the importance of professional help.
If you know anyone around you (or you for that matter) who is going through a stressful time and has suicidal tendencies, get help by calling the below organisations who help people in distress. You can call these organisations anywhere from the country. (Emergency Contact List)
The Mumbai-based organisation has a 24×7 dedicated free helpline number where professionally trained volunteers are there to answer the call. The volunteers can converse in Hindi and English.
Helpline Number: +91 98204 66726
FORTIS STRESS HELPLINE
The Fortis 24×7 Stress Helpline number is for students and/or parents who may have queries related to stress, mental well-being related to exams and academics. A team of mental health specialists, who can converse in English as well as regional Indian languages, from the hospital, will be there to help out. You can write to them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helpline Number: +9183768 04102
The Bangalore-based counselling centre has a dedicated helpline number where one can call in and get connected to professional & trained counsellors who can converse in English, Kannada, and Tamil. The helpline number is open from 1 pm to 10 pm, Monday through Friday. Online counselling sessions are also available should one need it. You can email them at email@example.com.
Helpline Number: +91 76766 02602
The Vandrevala Foundation is an NPO and they are around-the-clock trained counsellors. Apart from their 24×7 helpline number, one can also email them on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Helpline Number: +91 730 459 9836, +91 730 459 9837, and 1860 2662 345
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION LIFELINE (USA)
This lifeline provides 24/7 free and confidential support for people in distress. Prevention and crisis resources for you and your loved ones.
Helpline number: 1-800-273-8255
CRISIS SERVICES CANADA (CSC)
Its structure and focus are geared towards strengthening regional service delivery and ensuring gaps in mental health and suicide prevention.
All of the above organisations are making a change by addressing various mental health issues and helping those who are in need. It is our responsibility that we make the most of these provisions by ending the stigma and reaching out for help.
NATIONAL SUICIDE PREVENTION WEEK (USA)
National Suicide Prevention Week starts on the 6th of September, Monday through 12th of September, Sunday surrounding World Suicide Prevention Day, September 10th, 2020. It’s a time to share resources and stories, as well as promote suicide prevention awareness. The week focuses on informing and engaging health professionals and the general public about suicide prevention and warning signs of suicide.
By drawing attention to the problem of suicide in the United States, the campaign also strives to reduce the stigma surrounding the topic, as well as encourage the pursuit of mental health assistance and to support people who have attempted suicide.
The first step towards approaching mental health disorders and suicide is by accepting the people who may be dealing with these issues. Instead of saying “why should I?” think about “how can I?” help make a difference. Today is the day to change for the present. Today is the day to change for the future.
About the Author
Avani AP Khare is a 17-year-old student from Pune. She is currently pursuing Humanities and wishes to major in psychology. She loves to write blogs, articles and poems. She is an intern at Speaking Grey and takes great interest in mental health-related issues.