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Tuesday, September 22, 2020

‘Suicide happens suddenly’ and other myths busted by WHO, doctor

World Suicide Prevention Day 2020: If people communicate ideas revolving around death, others tend to trivialise it. It is also seen as plea for attention and is not taken seriously

By: Lifestyle Desk | New Delhi | Updated: September 10, 2020 4:48:52 pm
world suicide prevention dayA total of 1,34,516 suicides were reported in 2018 in India. (file)

World Suicide Prevention Day 2020: In India, more than 1,00,000 people commit suicide every year, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). As per the official data, a total of 1,34,516 suicides were reported in 2018, an increase of 3.6 per cent from 2017. And yet, more often than not, people hesitate to talk about the issue openly nor manage to recognise and address suicidal intent in a person. To build more awareness, let us bust some common myths about suicide:

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Myth: People who talk about suicide do not commit it

If people communicate ideas revolving around death, others tend to trivialise it. It is also seen as a plea for attention and is not taken seriously, Dr Sharmila Banwat, consultant clinical psychologist, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, told indianexpress.com. The fact is that people who talk about suicide may be reaching out for help or support, mentions World Health Organisation (WHO) in a document titled Preventing Suicide.

Myth: If there is a family history of suicide, there is a high chance of committing it

“Suicide is not genetically transmitted. It is about the environment at home and the emotional state of the individual. Just because someone else in the family has committed suicide does not mean they will also commit it,” the psychologist asserted.

Myth: People who have already attempted suicide may not try it again

Rather, it is the opposite. “Suicide survivors have a higher risk of attempting again. So one needs to be very vigilant about it,” Dr Banwat advised. Heightened suicide risk, however, is often short-term and situation-specific, says WHO. “While suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent and an individual with previously suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long life.”

Read| World Suicide Prevention Day 2020: In pandemic, Indians are coping with depression, survey finds

Myth: Suicide attempts happen very suddenly

In almost nine out of 10 people, there will be some warning signs but unfortunately, they do not get recognised or are ignored, said the psychologist. “Among the youth, there may be some suicide note but there are some adolescents who are very secretive about it. If family members and friends notice any change in the person’s behaviour, they must take it seriously. There may be some important indications that need to be checked immediately,” she added.

Myth: Only people suffering from severe mental health disorder commit suicide

NCRB notes various causes of suicide in its report–professional or career problems, sense of isolation, abuse, violence, family problems, addiction to alcohol, financial loss and chronic pain, apart from mental disorders.

Dr Banwat said, “There are multiple disorders where there may be a probability of suicide. Think of the pandemic-led crisis because of which people are experiencing a lot of hopelessness, aimlessness and anxiety. And with the social connect being very low right now, the youth especially–between 15-25 years of age–is facing a lot of challenges. So if there any warning signs among these people, they should be taken very seriously.”

Not all people suffering from mental disorders will show suicidal behaviour and not all people who take their own lives have a mental disorder, WHO further mentions.

Myth: When the intent to commit suicide is indicated, there is no way to stop it

If there is an intent, it needs to be treated as an emergency, the doctor warned. “As mental health professionals, we also do a suicide-risk assessment that tells us the degree of the intention to commit suicide, and it can be immediately addressed with the help of family members,” she emphasised.

Myth: Do not talk about suicide or it would mean planting ideas

On the contrary, by talking you encourage a person to share their thoughts. Dr Banwat remarked, “A person may just have passing suicidal ideas; they may not have actually planned it. By taking to the person, one can get to know what they are actually thinking and to what level — whether it is just a passing thought or something they are really considering or there if there have been attempts in the past that we are unaware of.”

WHO also mentions that rather than encouraging suicidal behaviour, talking openly can give an individual “other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide”.

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