World Mental Health Day: Spotting The Signs Of Suicidal Behaviour
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young adults, worldwide.With ever-changing dynamics, a fast paced life and no concept of delayed gratification- there are scores of young people battling stress or loneliness, broken relationships or marriages; pressures from parents or jobs with financial woes; trauma or abuse; depression and other mental health illnesses. With so much of emphasis on physical health we seem to neglect mental health completely..
According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), at least one million people die from suicide and 20 times more people attempt it every year with 1 death every 40 seconds and 1 attempt every 3 seconds.
Loved ones and family members of people experiencing suicidal feelings cannot make sense of their suicidal thoughts, ideations or attempts. People suffering from suicidal thoughts feel that there is no other way to end their pain and suffering; they lose hope and will to continue battling with suicidal thoughts. For them, there is a loss of meaning to life itself, coupled with breakdown of self-confidence, self-love, and self-worth.
Suicidal thoughts breakdown meaning and purpose of life. This leads to a profound state of pessimism, negativism, nothingness, and emptiness. The will to live becomes a will to die, a feeling of nothingness - a state called nihilism is experienced. To better understand the differences between people here, we have to appreciate better what the act of suicide expresses and means to that individual.
Suicide is the worst form of death that the family and loved ones of the affected person have to come to terms with. There is tremendous guilt, humiliation, non-acceptance, disbelief, hurt, and anger, that take a huge toll on these individuals, as there are mostly no real answers and closure.
As society and individuals, we need to be more cognisant and aware of what all this really means in the realm of mental health. We need to understand better in order to be able to reach out and help. We have to understand that their pain is real and should be able to empathise with their problems in a non-judgemental and non-biased way.
Suicide: Warning Signs And Risks
People experiencing recent losses (financial, property, relationships or loss through death), severe trauma or abuse (through childhood or ongoing - verbal, physical, emotional or sexual abuse); severe work or job related distress, terminal medical illnesses, chronic mental health problems like longstanding schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, depression, amongst other conditions, are more prone to suicidal feelings.
Other Red Flags
- Talking about committing suicide.
- Displaying drastic changes in behaviour.
- Withdrawing from friendships or social activities, school, work or hobbies.
- Preparing for death by writing a suicide note, diary or journal entries, making a will or other such final arrangements, even sometimes financially.
- Giving away prized possessions, or returning borrowed articles.
- High risk-taking behaviour or experimentation, self-harm, binge drinking or substance use.
- Seemingly preoccupied with death and dying. Researching ways to end life, group chats or other social media platforms with such discussions.
The Importance Of Mental Health First Aid
- Many of us, including mental health professionals and therapists are very uncomfortable with openly asking or questioning the intent of suicide in a seemingly depressed individual or loved one. We feel that by asking we may be putting ideas in their head or perceive giving them permission to end their lives.
- However, from a mental health first aid perspective, research clearly indicates the importance of ‘directly asking’ the individual about suicidal thoughts, feelings or ideations to ascertain the intent and risk. They may also feel relieved that somebody has noticed and cared enough to ask. It opens up communication and may instil a sense of hope, awareness, and direction. This approach may empower young people to seek help without feeling ashamed or embarrassed, which is usually a stigma that shrouds mental health.