It was World Mental Health Day on 10th October, and this year, our focus is on Suicide. Very often, someone we know, or love, has considered taking their own life, without us ever finding out. According to the World Health Organization, someone loses their life to suicide every 40 seconds!
But we can prevent this if we know how to spot the signs and take the right action at the right time:
Signs to look out for:
1. Socially isolating oneself, withdrawal from community life/work or decrease in performance at school or in a job
2. Speaking of loneliness, purposelessness in living, or meaninglessness in one's existence, i.e. having no reason to live
3. Dwelling on problems and expressing hopelessness in resolving them
4. Speaking of ending life to bring an end to their pain
5. Changes in behavior like restlessness, irritability, impulsivity or aggression.
What you can do:
1. Talk to them in a private space: Express empathy and encourage them to talk, without judging them. Dig into their problems like you peel an onion – there could be something deeper causing them to feel the way they do. Actively listen to what they have to say.
2. Encourage them to speak to someone they trust: Ask if there’s anyone they would like to talk to or call, and help them find professional help from counselors, psychiatrists or mental health professionals. You could offer to call or go with them.
3. Tell them how much they matter to you: Make them understand that they are not alone, and their pain matters because they do!
4. Cite similar instances to alleviate feelings of hopelessness: Use this method with people to whom logic appeals more than emotion. Talk to them about people who overcame similar hardships and show them how they did it. Let them know that many of us share similar problems and reassure them that they don’t have to face it all alone.
5. Timely consumption of medicines: If someone is on medication for depression or any similar disposition, ensure that they take medicines prescribed by their doctor on time.
6. Remove access to means of self-harm: If you feel that someone is in immediate danger, do not leave them alone, and keep them away from things they can use to harm themselves (pesticides, medication, sharp objects, etc.).
The most important thing is to talk openly to the person you think may be considering suicide, and to listen without any judgment.
Reference: World Health Organisation - World Mental Health Day 2019: focus on suicide prevention