World Mental Health Day 2019: How to help a friend having suicidal tendencies

Updated: Oct 10, 2019, 15:16 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

This is an excruciating psychological pain that may include anguish, hurt and many other difficult emotions. This most often results in suicidal behaviour

This picture has been used for representational purpose
This picture has been used for representational purpose

It is not uncommon for us humans to have fleeting thoughts of suicide in times of distress. The word fleeting here suggests that these thoughts do not last for a very long time and are of a low intensity that would not lead to harming oneself. However, sometimes the frequency and intensity of such thoughts can become very heightened stemming from what is called psyche-ache. This is an excruciating psychological pain that may include anguish, hurt and many other difficult emotions. This most often results in suicidal behaviour.

There are recognisable signs to be able to help those in need. Some of the major warning signs can be: talking about harming or killing oneself, hopelessness to the extent of not being able to carry out routine tasks, withdrawal from people and deliberately isolating oneself. These can be heightened if the individual experiencing these has a history of depression or other mood disorders and history of any mental illness.

When we encounter a loved one experiencing the above, more often than not our knee jerk reactions include either panic or anger becoming too attacking or interrogating. This leaves no scope for the individual to open up and speak about the things that are bothering them. Below are steps suggested by Rachna Muralidhar, Psychologist & Outreach Associate, Mpower – The Centre that one can employ in order to aid the beginning of the healing process.

  • First of all, despite the shock and panic one experiences hearing about the suicidal thoughts, it is very necessary that composure is maintained. When panic is sensed by the individual it closes doors for further exploration.
  • Approach the matter with a non-judgmental stance. Having these thoughts is neither good or bad. It is a thought and not the reality in the moment and there is potential to take a step back and understand what is causing the unpleasant experience.
  • Do talk about it openly. Do not try to distract them in an attempt to cheer them up for it only trivialises and dismisses the emotions being experienced.
  • Listen mostly, refraining from advice. Let him/her speak as much as they would feel like. This paves way for catharsis, a vent to many accumulated, suppressed emotions. Advising, most often puts one in a place of subordination and may increase feelings of either self-loathing, a feeling of not being good enough or a feeling of being misunderstood /un-understood.
  • Patience, is definitely key to bring in a shift in the way the individual is perceiving his/her life. They may repeatedly talk about how hopeless their life looks at the moment. Listen with patience and navigate to what is also working despite the many existing difficulties.
  • Be the anchor and offer support to the person in distress. Assure that you are going to be there to help and offer to talk whenever he/she feels like. Also, promote having other points of anchor like a couple of other people who can possibly help them through the feelings.

It is imperative that we understood the seriousness of the distress. Everybody's threshold for stress is different. And only because some people spring back does not mean everybody does the same. Also, it is not an attention seeking strategy always, it may be a cry for help. Be empathetic, practice compassion, be kind! Let us all join hands in our mission of helping people in distress inturn helping prevent suicides on the whole!

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