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 Psychological & Emotional Health

April 2012
Suicide Is Serious Business
Dr Savita D Menon
“It’s hard to tell you ‘what’s wrong’ when nothing is right. Tired of living and scared of dying”... - in the distressed mind

The reasons behind suicide are many and varied. In most cases, the near and dear ones have no idea of a person’s distress and are shocked when suicide occurs. Learning to identify the distress signs can go a long way in helping the person and preventing instances of suicide.

What is suicide?
Suicide is the process of purposely ending one’s own life. Suicide is not a random or pointless act. It is intentional and self-inflicted death, as a permanent solution to a temporary problem. It is a narrowing of perceived options, a need for escape. The way societies view suicide varies widely according to culture and religion. Western cultures, Judaism, Islam and Christianity tend to view killing oneself as quite negative. Some societies also treat a suicide attempt as if it were a crime

Keep An Eye
While suicide is an individual act committed usually in solitude, the majority of them can still be prevented. Helplines play a big role by empathising with the suicidal caller yet postponing the sense of immediacy, so that the caller can at least live to seek professional help. Watch out for these risk factors and warning signs:

Risk Factors In Adults
  • Male gender over female
  • Access to firearms
  • Separated, divorced, widowed, or other ending of significant relationship
  • Personal crisis (occupational, financial, chronic illness)
  • Depression
  • Substance abuse
Risk Factors In Children And Teens
  • Teenage over any other age
  • Being bullied repeatedly
  • Having someone they know well commit suicide
Our Pain
The majority of suicides in India - 71 percent - are below the age of 44 years and 37.8 percent below 30 years. This massive socio-emotional burden on our society is perhaps the price we are paying for our leap into globalization. Fast paced social change, that is increasingly turning us into aggressive and ambitious personalities, are aggravating factors for sure.

Ask For Help
If you are sad, upset, lost, lonely and helpless and crying out for help, don’t walk the suicide route. Remember, try, try and you will succeed.

“I feel so guilty! How could I fail to see it coming? I could have prevented this death!” ...- the agony of immediate relations

Warning Signs
  • A persistently depressed mood or mood swings
  • Helplessness, hopelessness
  • Change or decline in performance
  • Withdrawal
  • Disturbed sleep and appetite
  • No stable attachments. Poor communication with near and dear ones
  • Reckless, impulsive, self destructive behaviour
  • Inquiries about drugs, poisons, weapons
  • Buying instruments of suicide like a gun, hose, rope, pills
  • Previous attempts at suicide
  • Sudden increase in consumption of alcohol, pills
  • Family history of suicide
  • Difficulty in relationships
  • Person making a will, getting affairs in order
  • Suddenly visiting friends or family members (one last time)
  • Writing a suicide note
  • Frequent talks or threats of suicide
  • Severe agitation, loss of interest in activities they used to enjoy
  • Persistent thoughts about the possibility of something bad happening
A Cry In Pain
Suicide or attempted suicide is a person crying out for help not knowing how else to get it. These people don’t usually want to die. But they do want to alert those around them that something is seriously wrong. They often don’t believe they will die, frequently choosing methods they don’t think can kill them in order to strike out at someone who has hurt them. But they are sometimes tragically misinformed and a cry for help hands out a long and painful hospital stay ending in an irreversible state of death.

You Can Help
At an individual level, each of us can become a watchdog. Pay attention to persistent negative, unhappy thoughts in your friends or family members. Show a little care in their time of sadness. When a family member reports feelings of worthlessness often, don’t get irritated. Take her to a psychologist. Don’t dismiss suicidal ideas and fears as trivial and silly. Even more importantly, don’t assume that the first attempt will be the last.
Dr Savita D Menon is Clinical Psychologist, Apollo Health City, Hyderabad

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