Each year across the globe millions of lives are lost to suicide. That being said, estimates suggest that India lost a staggering 2,30,314 lives to suicide in 2016 (Dandona et al., 2018). Over the years, suicide has slowly announced itself as a full-blown national crisis. Each life lost to suicide is a tragedy and the collateral damage of suicide severely impacts the lives of loved ones. It is pertinent to know that suicide can be prevented, there is help, there is hope, and it is not inevitable.
Even when an individual appears to be happy, shiny and bright from the outside, locked deep within could be a world of hopelessness, helplessness, and suffering, leading to a decision to end their life.
Albeit it is widely known that individuals with mental disorders like depression and anxiety are at a higher risk of committing suicide, it is also important to acknowledge that suicide also occurs spontaneously without planning or putting in much thought due to sudden or stressful life events and situations. This reflects on the need for building resilience and meaningful connections amongst individuals to help navigate through these stressful times.
Suicide is highly stigmatised with people not talking about their disturbing issues and seeking help. However, talking about suicide can significantly reduce the stigma, allowing individuals to seek timely help, reconsider their options, and share their stories with the wider network perhaps saving a precious life. Even when an individual appears to be happy, shiny and bright from the outside, locked deep within could be a world of hopelessness, helplessness, and suffering, leading to a decision to end their life. This is primarily due to lack of awareness and a collaborative approach towards addressing the grave issue of suicide.
The signs to look out for could potentially be social withdrawal, loss of interest in life, recklessness and self-destructive behaviour, drug dependence, changes in sleep pattern, or expressing feelings of excessive sadness or moodiness.
In order to foster an environment that welcomes open discussions about suicide we need to listen to understand, not listen to explain, and rightfully address our emotions and feelings. Further, whilst, sharing numbers of suicide helplines can be hugely helpful for those in crisis, it must be noted that posting these helpline numbers often pay no attention to the stark reality that saving a life doesn’t merely depend on the individual who is at risk.
There are several other meaningful actions that we all as caring and compassionate individuals can take to save precious lives of those around us. These actions comprise of; replying and engaging with someone who often shares, posts or tweets content that is sad, unhealthy, or self-destructive in nature, frequently checking up with our ‘strong’ friend, and bonding over a cuppa with those who seem low and not their usual self.
Very often individuals who contemplate suicide are not too weak to stand for themselves, but lack support and the presence of meaningful connections. Just by lending a non-judgemental listening ear and allowing the person affected to speak their mind, we may just be the turning point in their lives, and save their life. Further, to gain a deeper understanding of the issue and spread awareness, it must be noted that in nine out of ten cases of suicide, warning signs- verbal or behavioural are present.
The signs to look out for could potentially be social withdrawal, loss of interest in life, recklessness and self-destructive behaviour, drug dependence, changes in sleep pattern, or expressing feelings of excessive sadness or moodiness. Whilst some may be vocal about their feelings, some may not be. If you deep down feel that they are considering suicide as an option, it is perfectly ok to ask them straight if they possess any suicidal thoughts or their views on suicide. This is to show that you’re always around and listening. To show that you deeply care, you’re understanding their issues, and taking them seriously. You might never ever know, but you might just save a precious life.
Let us all, on this day of World Suicide Prevention Day pledge to intervene and provide support to those who require it, be mindful of the warning signs, extend a listening ear, and also to seek support when we ourselves require it rather than bottling it up.
Let us all come together and extend a cuppa and warm hug to anyone who is distressed, feeling low, or is looking for a bit of an encouragement and support in life’s everyday hustle and bustle.
- Dandona, R., Kumar, G. A., Dhaliwal, R. S., Naghavi, M., Vos, T., Shukla, D. K., … & Sagar, R. (2018).
- Gender differentials and state variations in suicide deaths in India: the Global Burden of Disease Study 1990–2016. The Lancet Public Health, 3(10), e478-e489.