When it's a matter of life and death, how do you respond?


While there are more trained counsellors, therapists, and other mental health professionals now, the suicide rates are still increasing, says Dr Anasuya. Photo: Freepik

If you have a friend or know of someone who is cutting or suicidal, what can you do? The reality of suicide crisis work is that professionals are rarely on hand when it happens. Therefore, the people who are around them often have to do something to help while waiting for the professionals to get to the scene.

It is with this in mind that University of Cyberjaya is organising a Suicide Attrition Intervention Workshop to teach members of the public what to do if someone they know attempts cutting or is suicidal.

The free public event, which is sponsored by the Selangor State Government and the university, with the collaboration of Yayasan Chow Kit and the Positive Psychology Association, will take place on Mar 16 at the Buddhist Gem Fellowship in Petaling Jaya.

Based on a report from the Health Ministry, there has been a surge in suicide cases in Malaysia with an 81% increase in the number of suicide cases, from 631 cases in 2020 to 1,142 in 2021. The National Health and Morbidity Survey (NHMS) 2022 shows an increase in suicidal thoughts (13.1%) and attempted suicide rates (9.5%) among Malaysian teens from the ages of 13 to 17, with a higher prevalence among girls – 18.5% (suicidal thoughts), 13.4% (attempted suicide) – compared to boys.

Dr Anasuya highlights that while suicide prevention work is done by specially-trained professionals, this suicide attrition initiative targets any members of the public who wish to help. Photo: Dr Anasuya Jegathevi JegathesanDr Anasuya highlights that while suicide prevention work is done by specially-trained professionals, this suicide attrition initiative targets any members of the public who wish to help. Photo: Dr Anasuya Jegathevi JegathesanWhile there are more trained counsellors, therapists, and other mental health professionals now, the suicide rates are still increasing, says associate professor Dr Anasuya Jegathevi Jegathesan who is University of Cyberjaya's Faculty of Psychology and Social Sciences dean.

"These statistics underscore the need for swift and impactful intervention to address the escalating problem of suicide. Self-harm can be a warning sign of serious mental health issues as well as an early predictor of suicidal tendencies. To arrest the escalation, we need to address the early signs as well as the act of suicide itself," she says.

Dr Anasuya highlights that while suicide prevention work is done by specially-trained professionals, this suicide attrition initiative targets any members of the public who wish to help.

"Suicide prevention is usually done by professionals: when somebody is trying to commit suicide, these individuals go in and try to stop them. And they comprise trained counsellors, therapists, and other professionals who are skilled to handle such situations," she explains.

"But this suicide attrition initiative is about getting regular people – those who are present, listening, or attached to non-profit organisations including religious ones such as mosques, temples, churches, and even teachers – who aren't trained in mental health issues to help.

"It helps regular people learn how to connect with someone in their circle who is cutting or suicidal, and know what to say to make them change their mind and get help," she says.

The session aims to target the "people within the suicidal individual's circle of friends or family" who have the opportunity to intervene and the confidence to do so."It's not a big call to action, rather, it's each individual being empowered to do what they can in their capacity to help the individual in need," says Dr Anasuya.

At grassroots level

Scan the QR code to register.Scan the QR code to register.These bystanders need to have some knowledge of how to respond to someone who is suicidal in order to "stop suicide at the grassroots level", she says.

The suicide attrition intervention project aims to increase awareness and mental preparedness within non-medical and non-mental health organisations, with three primary objectives: dispelling taboos and debunking myths associated with self-harm and suicidal behaviour; equipping volunteers with the skills and knowledge to respond effectively in the event of a mental health crisis involving self-harm or suicide; and developing a comprehensive training programme and handbook to facilitate effective response and situational management of leaders in a mental health crisis.

As part of the initiative, an informative YouTube video on the Cascade Method of Managing a Suicide Crisis has been produced.

Each workshop participant will receive a handbook and certificate, and refreshments are provided. Scan the QR code in the poster to register or WhatsApp +6012-3257397 for more info.

Those suffering from mental health issues or contemplating suicide can reach out to the Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (+603-2935 9935 or +6014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 or +6019-261 5999 on WhatsApp); Jakim’s Family, Social and Community care centre (+6011-1959 8214 on WhatsApp); and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (+603-7627 2929 or visit befrienders.org.my/centre-in-malaysia for a full list of numbers and operating hours, or email sam@befrienders.org.my).

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