World Suicide Prevention Day: One suicide in every 40 seconds. What we can do?

Updated: 10 September, 2020 14:15 IST | Maitrai Agarwal |

Lead Counselling Psychologist and Program Manager at Fortis National Mental Health Program, Nishtha Narula, discusses the impact of suicide and what needs to be done

Photo used for representational purposes only
Photo used for representational purposes only

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicide is amongst the top ten killers in the world and the third-highest in the young population.

Every year, we lose 800,000 people to suicide while the number of people attempting suicide is much greater.

India reported an average 381 deaths by suicide daily in 2019 as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). Each loss is a tragedy that has a multi-fold impact on families and communities.

Why do people consider suicide?

Suicide is closely interlinked with mental disorders, lead counselling psychologist and program manager at Fortis National Mental Health Program, Nishtha Narula, explained, “Majority of suicides happen secondary to an unidentified, untreated or partially treated mental illness, depression is the single most common illness amongst these.” 

However, there are deeply distressing scenarios that can lead to impulsive suicides as well. Moments of crisis, such as financial difficulties and relationship problems, can lead to a breakdown. Additionally, experiencing violence, abuse, conflict, or loss is strongly connected to suicidal behaviour.

Stigma: The Silent Killer

According to the WHO, 25 per cent of the global population will suffer from neurological or mental disorders. The stigma surrounding mental disorders prevents people from seeking help even when treatments are available. Nearly two-thirds of people affected by a known mental disorder do not seek help from a health professional. The reduction of help-seeking behaviour directly contributes to the number of deaths each year.

Emphasis must be laid on the fact that suicides are preventable with evidence-based, timely, and low-cost interventions. However, unless we acknowledge suicide as a serious public health problem and treat it as such, the lack of awareness regarding the prevention of suicide will persist.

In the middle of arguably the biggest health crisis in modern history, the need to break taboos and raise community awareness about a global phenomenon such as suicide (and mental disorders) has never been more important. 

Also Read: World Suicide Prevention Day: Understanding Suicide and Busting Common Myths

What can be done?

This Suicide Prevention Day all stakeholders need to come together to make an impact on the cause of suicide prevention. Nishtha shares with us four important steps to be taken:

1. Introduction of more vernacular helplines
In a country as diverse as India, language can be a barrier when seeking help. It is important to have multi-lingual resources to benefit people across varying economic classes.

2. Media reportage to follow guidelines given by the WHO
Mass media plays a major role when it comes to the depiction of suicide and mental disorders. To avoid copy-cat suicides (known as the Werther effect) and trigger those who are struggling, guidelines must be followed. 

3. Social media conversation to reduce stigma
Social media has made information accessible to all demographics in a simple manner. It also provides a platform for people to share personal stories and seek help.

4. Life skills to build resilience and encourage help seeking in schools
According to the National Crime Records Bureau, 10,335 students died by suicide in 2019, the most in the past 25 years. Children should undergo training and classes in order to better deal with their emotional and mental state of being. Ignoring mental health issues is not an option anymore kids must be taught that seeking help is okay.

What Can You Do?

If someone you know is suffering from depression and struggling with suicide ideation, Nishtha suggests keeping the following points in mind:

1. Be Supportive and Accessible
To be heard and understood is extremely important for someone who’s struggling with mental health issues. Try to be there for them so they can vent out to you.

2. Don’t be Critical
Know that your understanding of the person or situation will be different from theirs, so do not be critical of their feelings and actions.

3. Encourage Seeking Help
Without pressuring them, nudge them towards seeking professional help which will benefit them in the long run.

4. Don't Leave them Alone
A sense of isolation only adds to the misery. You might not know what to say but sometimes simply being there is all that is needed.

5. Help by Crisis Intervention Solutions
Undertake actions in real-time to relieve sudden upheaval and use remedial measures to restore pre-crisis level of functioning.

If you or anyone you know might need help you can reach out to the Fortis Stress Helpline on 8376804102.

Fortis Healthcare offers a 24/7 helpline. Professional health practitioners offer free and confidential support in 16 languages to people in distress.

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World Suicide Prevention Day: Understanding Suicide and Busting Common Myths

First Published: 10 September, 2020 00:07 IST

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