TALKING about suicide is not easy. An act of taking one’s life may shock many. More than the tragedy and immutable nature of death, the state one was in is a source of painful and unexplained curiosity. The final moments of those who lived through it is an experience that eludes us indefinitely. Suicide therefore easily resides in silence.
World Suicide Prevention Day is commemorated each year on Sept 10. With the multitude of days, weeks and months dedicated each year for a worthy cause, it is likely this is not common knowledge. However, there is at least one suicide reported every other week close to home and often the person ends his or her life in a violent way.
Statistically, 800,000 people lose their lives to suicide each year and 25 more make an attempt for each death. Being tabooed and under-reported, these numbers only represent the tip of the iceberg. Each day, an accident and emergency department receives someone who has self-harmed. Suicidal behaviour is active in the community even though the information remains in silence.
A greater part of the need to talk about suicide and suicidal behaviour is prevention. Suicide happens when a person is alone. It is not just physical loneliness but psychological isolation too that a person finds himself in situations of suicidal behaviour.
Many of the circumstances leading to suicide are preventable and treatable. Depression, especially bipolar depression, is a common condition which, when left untreated or undiagnosed, has a high preponderance to suicidal thinking.
Sometimes, risky lifestyle choices such as substance and alcohol abuse along with maladaptive coping mechanisms could cloud judgment. The melancholy of this situation is that the individual sinks into a state of helplessness and finds it hard to get help.
Talking to those who survived the experience, one would realise the role of friends and family who were around them. Change in behaviour sometimes occurs months before the act.
Connectivity is part of human nature and is almost as organic as it is therapeutic. Many a time, suicidal behaviour was thwarted when a person close to someone realised that something was amiss and offered to talk to them.
Laughs that are shorter, smiles that do not light up and words that are curt are instances so nuanced that they may only be picked up by people in the immediate social network.
This brings us to the greater social responsibility of breaking the silence be it at home, school or work. Asking genuinely and showing empathy may unmask the hidden difficulties a person is facing. There may be a personal crisis or loss or financial impediment.
Problems come in various forms but so do solutions. When we talk about it, we find ourselves in a better place where there is more clarity.
If we do not have solutions, it is all right to ask for help. Being vulnerable and in pain is not sign of weakness. Talking to a counsellor, psychologist or doctor about these things isn’t being weak either. It is only human to get help in order to build resilience.
It is also human to be there for someone, even an acquaintance. Voicing hope in deafening silence makes all the difference. Being there for someone in times of great need even when it is only for a while is transformative and life-saving.
Take a minute, change a life.
DR RAVIVARMA RAO