PEER FOR PREVENTION – Action For Suicide Prevention
Suicide, has always been a familiar term among the laymen. Ranging from glaring headlines in varied newspapers or an eye-catching news piece on TV, it has been described as a hot breaking news which always interests people. But sadly, as time passes, the situation is overlooked or overshadowed by inconsequential matters of the nation. Leading to a huge gap between what people understand or have knowledge of this mental health crisis and what actual understanding underlays Suicide as an extreme form of mental health crisis. Thus, leaving the wound caused untreated leading to more damage than cure.
The problem stands still, hanging between the sensitivity involved and suppression of the phenomenon making people curious yet scared of the term Suicide. Further, filling the pockets with judgements, subjectivity, non-acceptance and sympathy.
The alarming question which arises essentially is what goes through the mind of the person when s/he takes this strong decision that ending life is the only solution to the problem, what thoughts captivate him/her, what feelings does s/he experience. To understand the same, let me take you through an enlightening journey of what really Suicide as a mental health crisis is and how can we as individuals become ‘Peer for Prevention’ and build a mental health +(ve) community.
What Suicide really is?
Suicide is a Latin word which means the deliberate act of killing oneself, where ‘sui’ means ‘oneself’ and ‘cide’ refers to killing oneself. Thus, term reflects that suicide is killing of one self or an act committed to end one’s life.
The underlying intention of someone taking away his/her own life is not because he here feels that s/he is content with the process of their life and their wishes have been fulfilled. The person commits this act because s/he isn’t finding themselves in control of their cognitive faculty and are much affected by the trauma. Thus, to end the excessive pain generated by the that phase of life or traumatic experience s/he finds it more appropriate to end their life. This form of extreme action is or can be considered as a resultant of internal deliberations or failed attempts of expression to the society about the emotional or mental pain.
Some important facts to know about suicide:
o People who experience suicidal thoughts and feelings are suffering with tremendous emotional pain.
o People who have died by suicide typically had overwhelming feelings of hopelessness, despair, and helplessness.
o Suicide is not about a moral weakness or a character flaw.
o People considering suicide feel as though their pain will never end and that suicide is the only way to stop the suffering.
Crisis Analysis In India:
India accounts for a share of almost 2 lakh reported deaths by suicide of the global total of 8 lakh deaths by suicide per year.
With this number significantly rising each year, especially in the age group of 15-29 years. (Data released recently by the online journal Lancet Public Health, as part of its Global Burden of Disease Study -1990 to 2016)
Moreover, 'India has been claimed as most depressed country' and had been reported to have a significant percentage of 75% of the total population to being suffering from depression. Depression being one of the leading causes of suicide along with an issue of lack of awareness, unethical information, fraudulent babas or self-help guides or gurus disseminating wrongful information among people a concern to give attention to and make an action to generate prevention and cure. Along with massive burden of stigma, taboo and societal outlook to issues of the kind.
What are the major ‘Risk Factors’ involved in ‘Suicide’:
‘Every year, 200 000 people intentionally take their own lives in the Western Pacific Region, accounting for 25% of global suicides. Over 75% of all suicides in the region occur in low- and middle-income countries. Risk factors contributing to suicidal thought or behaviour include previous suicide attempts, harmful use of alcohol and mental disorders.’
The reasons overdue the individual to attempt or commit suicide can be far-ranging but it could be broadly categorised into four major categories : Physical and mental health conditions ,history of trauma, psycho-social factors and role of media. Some of them are listed below (source : WHO): previous suicide attempts, harmful use of alcohol and mental disorders.
• Abuse of alcohol, nicotine, cannabis and other drugs such that it causes disturbance to the person and the people around them
• Mental health problems like depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, and
• Family and other relationship issues, such as marital conflicts, conflicts
• with caregivers, sexual, physical or emotional abuse, dowry harassments,
• Academic and peer pressure, due to expectations set by family, teachers,
• self, etc.
• Work and finance related stressors, such as unable to keep professional
• commitments, workplace harassment or abuse, financial responsibilities
• and burdens, lack of interest and motivation in chosen field, unexpected
• job loss, etc.
• Complications due to a medical procedure, being diagnosed with a life
• threatening illness, , illness which have led to permanent disability,
• Family history of Suicide, i.e., if someone in a person’s family (or close
• friend circle) has committed suicide, there can be a strong hereditary
• If a person has attempted to kill themselves previously and has been
• unsuccessful or prevented from family or friends, he or she can again
• attempt to commit suicide again.
What are the possible warning signs of ‘Suicide’:
The signs and symptoms marking an intention of someone either planning or implanting suicide are much observable in more than one way. Here is a presentation of possible warning signs divided over three categories of talk, mood and behave which as a close-one or a peer you can notice to help the person through first step and further encourage professional help to save a life.
a person ‘talks’ about:
1.Killing themselves 2. Feeling hopeless 3. Having no reason to live Being a burden to others 4. Feeling trapped 5. Unbearable pain
People who are considering suicide often display one or more of the following moods:
1.Depression 2. Anxiety 3. Loss of interest 4. Irritability 5. Humiliation/Shame Agitation/Anger 6. Relief/Sudden Improvement
Behaviors that may signal risk, especially if related to a painful event, loss or change:
1.Increased use of alcohol or drugs 2. Looking for a way to end their lives, such as searching online for methods 3. Withdrawing from activities Isolating from family and friends 4. Sleeping too much or too little 5. Visiting or calling people to say goodbye 6.Giving away prized possessions 7.Aggression 8.Fatigue
Step towards Prevention of Suicide - Become a Peer for Prevention:
Yes. The Prevention is possible and its possible through you. You can save a life by following this step-to step guide presented as a part of Mental Health First Aid for Prevention of Suicide. Let’s take a empowering action to strengthen oneself, encouraging strength in others. Hence, leading to development of a mental health +(ve) community.
1. Become a responsible human and encourage two way communication with the individual. This can be done by :
• Be respectful and acknowledge the person’s feelings
• Ask the person in a direct manner if they have been having suicidal thoughts
2. Don’t make outright judgements, Listen to understand the ‘issues’ concerning the individual, make a sensible response. This could be achieved by :
• Avoid being harsh or judging him for having suicidal ideas
• Avoid giving them advice about what to change in their lives or thoughts, unless they ask for the same
• In that moment, avoid making attempts to make them feel better
3. Give them Assurance and Generate Hope in them. This can be done in the following manner
• Instil hope that their problems can be addressed in a constructive manner with a mental health professional or a supportive family member and coping skills can be strengthened.
• You can do be supportive and help them acknowledge how difficult their current state is for them.
4. Make them comfortable with idea of seeking help and encourage their reformation through positive reinforcements. Also, make mandatory follow ups.
• Referring the person to a mental health professional at the earliest, especially if an intent to harm self is strong, or has already been attempted
• Once treatment is started, continuity in treatment is important till the person feels healthy and stable again in their life, because if a person has shown suicidal behaviors, it often makes them vulnerable to attempting these again unless its underlying causes are dealt with.
Community Development and Mental Health interventions by PSY-Fi: For A Healthy Mind:
Initiatives such as ‘Peer for Prevention - A Mental Health Intervention for Suicide Prevention’ organized by PSY-Fi, a Mental Health Education Organization founded by Ms. Jigyasa Tandon (Mental Health Educationist, NIMHANS and a Counselling Psychologist) works as positive measures in the direction of creating a more understanding and empathetic community with more informed and educated ‘peers’ who are equipped well to provide Mental Health First Aid to the people around them.
It covered paramount milestones such as: understanding the meaning and the leading cause of suicide, to help people understand the warning signs and how they can intervene and prevent someone from committing suicide. The talk seminar also reflected upon the role of counselling in combating against suicide, with an understanding of the legal and practical implications of Section 309, IPC and the Mental Health Care Act 2017.
The term ‘Peer’ was emphasised and restructured in a positive way. The occasion’s focus would be to create a positive network amongst the community of mental
health professionals and organizations, thereby taking a step forward towards building a mental health positive community.
Article submitted by:
Mental Health Educationist, NIMHANS
Counselling Psychologist and Founder, PSY-Fi: For A Healthy Mind