Communication plays vital role in preventing suicides, says MMHA president

KLANG: Valerie (not her real name) had tried to kill herself five times throughout the span of her 25-year marriage that ended in divorce in 2017.

“My first attempt was in 1985 and the last attempt was in 2002.

I survived all five attempts as I was rushed to hospital by my ex-husband in the nick of time," said Valerie, who had sought treatment at the Universiti Malaya Medical Centre and various private hospitals throughout her ordeal.

Valerie, 58, who still consults psychiatrists, said she no longer has the urge to commit suicide.

"I now realise that some problems in your life cannot be solved.

"One has to accept or ignore these unsolvable problems and move on with life," she said.

She said the turning point in her life came when she was admitted to Assunta Hospital in Petaling Jaya after her last suicide attempt and a nurse told her to do some soul searching before she attempted to kill herself again.

Valerie recalled that the nurse told her that she was blessed as she was intelligent and financially well off and should use these as resources to battle her emotional demons instead of allowing herself to be defeated by committing suicide.

“That changed me and although I will always have a dark shadow hanging over me, I no longer want to end my life prematurely," the mother of four said.

Some, unfortunately, do not have that turning point in life.

Family members of 19-year-old Robert (not his real name) had no inkling that he would kill himself.

Robert, who was studying at a private college, was known as a happy young man.

His aunt Michelle (not her real name) said she was still not able to comprehend what had really happened even now – five years after the tragic incident.

“I used to meet my nephew regularly at a shopping mall in Petaling Jaya and he was always his cheeky, jovial self. When I received a call from family members about his suicide the morning it happened, I was dumbfounded," she said.

Michelle added that the family was still somewhat clueless about what may have triggered Robert to kill himself.

Malaysian Mental Health Association (MMHA) president Datuk Dr Andrew Mohanraj stresses that suicide is largely preventable.

"Reaching out to a suicidal person at the opportune moment can often result in saving a precious life.

"A significant majority of people, who attempt suicide, battle with depression, yet many who are on treatment for depression or have a history of depression do not attempt suicide," said Dr Mohanraj.

He added this fact indicated that with correct intervention, one would not be driven to contemplate suicide.

"This is akin to adapting lifestyle changes or taking anti-hypertensive medication to combat hypertension without which there is a danger of dying due to a preventable stroke," he said.

He advised those who are feeling depressed to connect with people who care for them as well as seek professional help before suicidal thoughts creep in.

He added it was important for members of the public to have awareness about the common signs of suicide for them to reach out and offer support to those they suspect are vulnerable.

“This is especially important for community leaders," added Dr Mohanraj.

Given this, he added, the Green Ribbon Group, in collaboration with the MMHA, has formulated a two-hour suicide prevention training programme dubbed "A Conversation on Suicide".

This programme would be suitable for community leaders, specifically members of Rukun Tetangga, Residents' Associations and management committee members of high-rise residential buildings, especially at public housing scheme (PPR) flats.

“This programme aims at creating suicide prevention awareness and ability to offer interim help to those suspected of having suicidal tendencies," added DrMohanraj.

It has been reported that there was a recent increase in suicides in the country with 468 people killing themselves in the first five months of 2021.

Most of those who took their own lives were below the age of 40.

Those in need of help and counselling can reach out to: Mental Health Psychosocial Support Service (03-2935 9935 or 014-322 3392); Talian Kasih (15999 or WhatsApp 019-261 5999); Jakim’s Family, Social and Community Care Centre (WhatsApp 0111-959 8214); and Befrienders Kuala Lumpur (03-7627 2929) or checkout for a full list of numbers and operating hours).

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