THOSE who are dealing with mental health issues and suicidal thoughts, as well as the family and friends of those who died by suicide, are already facing immense challenges and grappling with trauma during the pandemic.
Sharing images and videos of the final moments of suicide victims will only add to their distress, says psychiatrist Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj.
Dr Mohanraj urges social media users to be respectful of bereaved families and friends before sharing videos or images of people who died of suicide.
“Ponder on the potential benefit and harm on others rather than just wanting to be the first to spread the news. Grieving people are themselves at risk of suicide, being in such a vulnerable situation.The circulation of these videos may also trigger fatal behaviour in people with suicidal thoughts, resulting in ‘copycat ‘ suicides,” says Dr Mohanraj, who is also president of the Malaysian Mental Health Association.
He adds that people should inform the sender of such images and videos that they do not appreciate receiving the offending clips. This may encourage everyone to consider the repercussions of their actions before clicking “send”, and break the video’s viral chain.
Lockdown and the movement control order has an inevitable impact on everyone’s mental health, says Dr Mohanraj. He explains that while it is natural for people to have feelings of hopelessness during these difficult times, we must remember that there are many out there who are able and willing to provide comfort and support. Stay connected with family and close friends and take control of what is possible in your life, he advises.
“People experience fear, regret, panic, anger, and despair leading to stress, anxiety and depression of various levels. External causes like loss of income or relationship issues, and internal causes like preexisting mental illness or substance addiction can be so severe that one becomes suicidal,” he explains.
“Do not allow your mind to trick you into only thinking of worst-case scenarios. We are all in this together and with patience we will understand that this doom and gloom is not going to last forever.”
Dr Mohanraj recommends members of the public make use of the psychological support helpline services available and do not hesitate to reach out to available professional mental health services, some of which do not require out of pocket expenditure.
“Some people who have features of depression may not even realise they need help. It is good to check in on yourself – often sleep will be an issue, with persistent worrying thoughts, irritable behaviour and even unexplained aches and pains,” he says.
Befrienders KL publicity director Ardy Ayadali concurs.
“Don’t suffer alone, help is available. You might think that you are all alone, that no one cares for you but that’s not true. All you need to do is take the first step to reach out and believe me, there will be people out there to help you,” he says.
He adds, “Even though sometimes it can be hard to get through to the Befrienders hotline because we get a high number of calls a day and operators may be busy, please do keep trying because eventually you will be able to get through.”
Ardy also urges anyone dealing with suicidal thoughts to reach out to a trusted friend or family member. In the long run, it is best to seek professional mental health assistance as they can help by providing coping strategies, he says.
Apart from psychological and psychiatric services by public or private clinics and hospitals, those seeking help can also approach community mental health centres such as the Mentari Centres which are available nationwide.