By Dr Santosh Bangar,
Suicide is an act of intentionally taking one’s life and it is a major public health issue, especially during the testing times of pandemic and periods of lockdowns. Every 40 seconds someone in the world take their life, with 75% cases from the low and middle income countries. Approximately 1.3% deaths in 2019 were due to suicide. However, Suicide is often preventable if timely help is sought.
10th September is observed as World Suicide Prevention Day, to raise awareness of suicide and to promote preventive measures with an aim to reduce suicides globally. The theme from 2021 across 2023 is ‘Creating Hope Through Action’.
The major causes leading to suicide are:
Mental health related: Depression, Bipolar disorder, Schizophrenia, substance misuse disorder, autism, personality disorders, previous suicidal attempt, suicide in the family
Social: Loss of job, relationship breakdown/divorce, abuse or bullying, recent bereavement
Physical health: longstanding pain, cancer, brain injury
Some people who contemplate taking their life may voice their ideas by either talking about death, spending several hours thinking about it or researching ways to end their life. Others may say, “they are a burden on others and want to get away from the emotional/physical pain”. Giving away valuable possessions, writing a will or writing a suicide note/goodbye message are some of the other warning signs. The person may appear depressed or have mood swings or indulge in excessive drug or alcohol abuse. Some individuals may plan their suicide by avoiding phone calls or isolating themselves or avoid discovery, whereas others may decide it on the spur of the moment.
Contrary to the popular belief, encouraging a person with suicidal thoughts to talk about their feelings does not increase the chance of taking their life.
Listening to them in a non-judgmental way and lending a listening ear can be very reassuring.
Encourage them to share their thoughts, what emotional turmoil they are going through can defuse the situation.
A gentle and non-confrontational approach is crucial in such a sensitive situation.
Ensure their safety by encouraging them to talk about what plan they had made and removing any potential lethal means of harm.
Connecting them to appropriate service, like a Helpline or taking them to a nearest hospital to get urgent professional help can be lifesaving.
Dealing with depression:
Symptoms of depression may be easily missed in the so-called ‘working depressive’ person. Depression is one of the common treatable mental health conditions. Person may suffer from sadness of mood, disinterest in usual enjoyable activities and feel tired without an explainable cause. Disturbances in sleep, appetite, weight, sexual functioning and concentration are some of the other symptoms. Suicidal thoughts are very common in depression. Depression is the single most major cause of suicide amongst the mental illnesses.
Identifying depression early is crucial as with early treatment depression is treatable. A combination of medication, psychological therapy and social intervention is recommended for effective treatment of depression. The newer medications offer the advantage of minimal side-effects and quicker recovery. They must be prescribed by Psychiatrists with regular monitoring. Contrary to popular belief, they are non-addictive. Psychological therapy in the form of Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is commonly used. CBT is a highly effective treatment modality delivered to alter some of the depressive thought process. Recovery from depression can take time and support from family/friends is of paramount importance to keep them engaged in treatment.
(The author is Senior Consultant Psychiatrist, Global Hospital, Parel. The article is for informational purposes only. Please consult health experts and medical professionals before starting any therapy or medication. Views expressed are personal and do not reflect the official position or policy of the Financial Express Online.)