September 10, 2020 1:20:25 pm
Written by Dr Ajay Nihalani
According to the WHO, we lose about 8,00,000 people to suicide every year, that is, roughly 2,200 people each day. The situation is no different in India. The reasons might be different but the consequence is the same, making it a clarion call to generate awareness on some of the pressing questions related to understanding people with suicidal tendencies.
To quote Jamison (Night Falls Fast: Understanding Suicide– a book by Kay Redfield Jamison), “the mental suffering leading up to it is usually prolonged, intense, and palliative. 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
Before understanding how to identify a person with suicidal tendencies, it is important to know that almost all individuals on the verge of taking such a drastic step are mentally disturbed and mostly depressed. This is a state of mind and can be in complete contrast to their physical and outer appearance; they could have everything going on for them from the outside yet could be in agony from the inside. Be mindful of how you treat people despite how happy they may seem.
So what can a friend, family member or a colleague look out for? The most important thing is a change in behaviour. Somebody who has started avoiding conversations, get-togethers and 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 or lose temper easily are some of the red flags. Such people become hard to communicate with, not only for the people around them but also for doctors.
How to deal with someone you suspect is harbouring suicidal tendencies
The first and most important thing is to open up communication and ask routine things such as how they are doing or is there something they would like to share.
Once the person opens up it is very important to listen to them patiently and give them the chance to voice their concerns and issues in a supportive and non-judgmental way.
At times, direct communication works best. Somehow, there’s a myth that asking about suicide promotes it. This is absolutely wrong. One has to remember that one of the primary reason for suicide is a way out of intense emotional pain. 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.
Some of us think suicide is sinful, the weak way out. Remember we all are humans and we have our limits. Bridges are made for one to be able to cross over hurdles. Be that bridge for someone.
(The author is a psychiatrist associated with Practo)
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