Last year more than 8000 persons committed suicide in our small state of Kerala and at least 20 times as many attempted suicide. They had decided that death was an alternative to problems in their lives . Each one of them was a part of our community. Some of them may have been directly connected to us-maybe part of our family, friends, colleagues and others may not be so connected. We might have felt the loss of some and may not have heard of the rest.
Suicide is an event that upsets all the members of the community. We have to understand that each one of us have a role in preventing these . It is our responsibility to look out for those who are struggling and give them a patient listening ear and a helping hand . That is the theme of World Suicide Prevention Day this year. TAKE A MINUTE. CHANGE A LIFE . People who have survived a suicide attempt often tell how words and deeds of others are important in their decision to live or die.
We are scared to ask about suicidal ideas in a fellow human being because of various misconceptions. Prominent among these is the fear that asking about suicide may put the idea into their mind. Studies have conclusively shown that this does not occur.In fact all of them are already entertaining the idea and feels relieved when someone else asks about the same. It will encourage them to speak openly about their feelings and thoughts and seek professional help. Another fear is that the problems of the suicidal patients are too complex that we can’t offer any help. We fear that what we tell might make situation worse. This is not true. Suicidal people are often not looking for readymade solutions. They are looking for empathy and a sense of being wanted . There are no hard and fast rules about what to tell to a suicidal person. All you need to do is to assure them that you are there for them and accept them unconditionally.
Suicides do not occur suddenly. Often the person has been entertaining the idea for weeks or months before an attempt is made. In this period they often give signals that should alert us. Common among them are presence of Depression, pessimistic outlook, expressions of helplessness and hopelessness, frequent crying, sleeplessness, agitation. final acts like writing a will etc. Any talks of death should be taken seriously. You must respond by hearing them out patiently and being with them as much as you can. You must encourage them to seek professional help and if needed accompany them to the Psychiatrist.
Fear and stigma often prevents these people from getting professional help . You must know that Psychological treatments including medications have advanced so much that all these individuals can be effectively treated. Denial of these medications to the needy will be the injustice we can do them. Once they recover rarely will they , if at all, attempt again. Remember that it is not the weak persons who attempts suicide. It is the strong persons in their weak periods who commit suicide, when they temporarily decide that death is a solution to their problems in life.
Suicide is not an act of a failed individual or an individuals failure. It is the collective failure of the whole society around the individual. We must remember that no man is an island. Every man’s death diminishes us. So we must take that minute to change a life.