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More Tomorrows: Hope, help and heal is the mantra to prevent suicide

With more than one lakh cases every year, suicide has emerged as a serious health issue in India

Post by on Sunday, August 15, 2021

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“You only live once, live on your own terms.  Love yourself, involve in things that give happiness. Rise to the situation and take charge of your emotions.”
 
The National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) reported over 139000 deaths due to suicides in India in the year 2019, highlighting an increase of 3.4 percent over the previous years. The most vulnerable individuals are the 15-29 year olds, the elderly, and individuals with special needs. Every year, more than  1,00,000 people commit suicide in our country. Suicide has thus evolved into a serious public health issue in India.  Every suicidal act is a  personal tragedy  that takes an individual’s life prematurely and  has   a  cascading   effect,  which dramatically   affects the  lives of their  families,   friends   and   communities.  According to the NCRB report, some common risk factors include family or other interpersonal problems, a history of a serious and a chronic medical or a mental illness, alcohol or drug abuse, prolonged stress and a recent tragedy or loss. 
Understanding suicide:
 
The most common purpose of suicide is to seek a solution. Suicide is not a random, pointless act. To people who think about ending their own lives, suicide often appears to be an answer to a problem or a dilemma that does not seem to have a solution. Sometimes, considering suicide as a solution happens when there is a family history of similar behaviours. If a close family member whom the person cared for has committed suicide, then the person is more likely to do so. People with high standards and expectations towards themselves can be vulnerable to ideas of suicide when they experience failure or disappointment in life. Such individuals may perceive themselves worthless or incompetent.  The common emotion in suicide is helplessness and hopelessness. The person who is suicidal convinces himself that there is nothing they can do to improve their situation and live a better life and nobody can help them.
 
Getting your facts right: Myths & Facts 
Suicide is a complex phenomenon and has many diverse routes leading to it. It is therefore imperative to do away with certain myths commonly associated with suicide. 
Myth: People who talk about suicide are usually not serious and will not go through with it.
Fact: People who kill themselves have often confided in someone that they do not feel life is worth living or that they have no future. People who say they want to commit suicide must always be taken seriously. 
Myth: If a person is serious about killing themselves then there's nothing you can do.
Fact: More often than not,  feeling actively suicidal is a temporary state of mind, even if an individual has been struggling with a low mood, anxious feelings and has been or trying to cope for a long period of time. This is why getting the right kind of support at the right time becomes important.
Myth: People who are suicidal want to die.
Fact: The majority of people who report that they are suicidal do not actually want to die; they just do not want to live the life they currently feel trapped in. This is a small but a vital distinction. It is why considering other options at the right time becomes so important.
Myth: Talking about suicide is a bad idea as it may give someone the idea to try it.
Fact: When we ask someone directly about their suicidal thoughts, we provide them with a safe space to tell us how they feel. This makes it easier to consider other safer, healthier alternatives to suicide.
The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) enlists some of the common warning signs that suggest that a person maybe at an immediate risk of attempting suicide. Talking about wanting to die or kill themselves.
Risk factors for suicide ( American Psychiatric Association ) 
 
Certain events and circumstances may increase risk 
•    Previous suicide attempt(s)
•    A history of suicide in the family
•    Substance misuse
•    Mood disorders (depression, bipolar disorder)
•    Access to lethal means (e.g., keeping firearms in the home)
•    Losses and other events (for example, the breakup of a relationship or a death, academic failures, legal difficulties, financial difficulties, bullying)
•    History of trauma or abuse
•    Chronic physical illness, including chronic pain
•    Exposure to the suicidal behaviour of others
Warning Signs 
•    Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
•    Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
•    Talking about being a burden to others
•    Withdrawing from family and friends
•    Giving away important possessions
•    Saying goodbye to friends and family
•    Putting affairs in order, such as making a will
•         Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast. 
 
What You Can Do ?
 
If someone indicates they are considering suicide, listen and take their concerns seriously. Don’t take them lightly.  Don't be afraid to ask questions about their plans. Let them know you care, and they are not alone. Encourage them to seek help immediately from a knowledgeable professional. Don't leave them alone. Below are some general principles to use that permit the person to be more forthcoming.
 
FEEL
 
Focus on person 
Encourage free communication 
Express concerns & understanding 
Listen actively 
 
TACKLE 
 
Time - give adequate time to a person 
Approach person in distress with respect 
Care - care for them whenever needed 
Know- understand the problem and more importantly the person 
Locate space to offer privacy 
Empathy and non-judgemental to get their viewpoint 
 
Self-help Strategies  
 
1. Be kind to yourself: Everyone adjusts to change and upheaval differently. Don’t criticise your coping skills or beat yourself up for every mistake you make. Self-compassion is an important part of building resilience, so go easy on yourself. There are some activities such as write a love letter to yourself, sit with your emotions, and allow yourself to feel and accept them and treat yourself out to dinner.  
2. Do simple things as self-care such as take a 5-minute break in your day, write about something you are grateful, create a happy playlist and a coping playlist, and take your medication on time.
 
3. Know that failure is not the end of your life. It’s a part and parcel of life. 
4. Connect with nature: Nature is the best way to stay calm in tough times. With social distancing,  we might have a tendency to just stay indoors but still, nature provides us with wonderful ways to find calm. That is because human beings are hardwired to connect nature. If you practice appropriate social distancing you can still take advantage of all the benefits the outdoors has to offer such as gardening, imaginative walk through nature, listening to nature sounds. 
5. Connect with your hobbies: Hobbies are seen as a marker of a balanced person who has multiple roles and responsibilities in life. Having a hobby brings joy and calmness to your life. Look within yourself and involve in a hobby that you are passionate about. 
6. Say Yes to treatment: Please seek professional help of mental health professional such as  Licensed Clinical Psychologist or Psychiatrist, if you are experiencing symptoms of extreme stress, anxiety, depression, inability to sleep, inability to carry out daily routines, or an increase in alcohol or drug use which interferes your daily life. 
 
7. Recharge yourself: Make time to stop, stand and stretch for two minutes, take a mental health day from school, work or obligations, give yourself permission to say no, take a new fitness class. 
 
8. Fight with your thoughts: There might be a series of negative thoughts running and you are often carried away by those thoughts. Hold ON!!!! All of your thoughts are not facts. They are simply thoughts passing through your mind.   Let thoughts pass like clouds floating by in the blue sky.  It doesn’t mean that you have to pretend that you aren’t concerned. It means that go-ahead and acknowledge what you are feeling or thinking. You are a human being after all and thoughts are normal. When we acknowledge what we are thinking, it creates an opportunity to move forward. Don’t act on your negative thoughts. 
To conclude Life can be a truly thrilling journey. But from time to time, there are those days, weeks, or even months, during which the going gets remarkably hard-hitting. Life may provoke you with destitution, trials and tribulations; it may drive you to the ground and will leave you with the hollow that all hope is gone. During these times of great striving, life will throw overwhelming encounters and larger-than-life stumbling block at you. Whenever these tough times arise in your life, it can be quite constructive to have a couple of affirmative and encouraging life positive experience to remember that will help you to remember the true beauty of life. 
 
 
Suicide Warning Signs 
Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live
Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions
Talking about being a burden to others
Withdrawing from family and friends
Giving away important possessions
Saying goodbye to friends and family
Putting affairs in order, such as making a will
Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast. 
 
 
 
 
 
DrJamuna Rajeswaran
Prof and Head 
Clinical Neuropsychology and Cognitive Neuroscience Centre
Department of Clinical Psychology
National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru.
 
Mishab AK 
Clinical Psychologist 
Department of Clinical Psychology
National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru.
 
 
Nishita Choudhari
PhD. Scholar
Department of Clinical Psychology
National Institute of Mental Health and Neurosciences (NIMHANS), Bengaluru.
 
 
 
 
 
 

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