End of life is a difficult crisis to face, whether it is because of natural causes, illness or a more disturbing cause: suicide. Suicide is one of the leading causes of preventable death. The efforts to reduce risk of someone committing suicide is called as suicide prevention. The lack of awareness and stigma surrounding this topic has given rise to several misconceptions. A cry for help is often mistaken as a cry for attention. There is a grave myth suggesting that those who talk about ending their life, never act upon it. However, studies have shown that a substantial number of people who committed suicide had talked about it to closed ones or had shown some warning signs. One doesn’t have to always suffer from a psychological illness to be at risk of suicide. It is the experience of hopelessness that makes their future seem bleak. The emotional pain feels unbearable to such an extent that ending life seems to be the only option left.
One of the important ways to prevent suicide is to identify if a friend or a family member is contemplating suicide and if yes, then knowing how to respond. Here are some of the indicators that someone is considering suicide :
● Talks about wanting to die
● Talks about feeling empty, hopeless, or having no reason to live
● Talks about being a burden to others
● Statements like “Things would be better if I didn’t exist”/”the problem will be gone if I am gone.”
● Collecting materials like sleeping pills or having an elaborate plan ready; an internet search history reflecting ways to commit suicide.
● Slowly withdrawing from family and friends
● Giving away important possessions
● Engaging in self destructive behaviours like excessive alcohol consumption, reckless driving, self harm (cuts, bruises, burn marks) etc.
If you suspect that a loved one is contemplating suicide, you can offer help in several ways. For example:
Directly ask them if they are planning to commit suicide. Although it is not an easy question to ask, it will help you identify the risk and might help start a conversation about things that are troubling them. It will also help them realize that people around them are aware of their situation and that they care about them.
Reduce their access to risky items and places. Monitor their activities as far as possible.
When they open up to you, listen to them actively and speak in a reassuring tone instead of sounding shocked/anxious. Avoid saying things like, “ But the life is so beautiful, look at what you have instead of what you don’t”. Emotional pain is a subjective experience. What may not look like an important issue to you, could be a threatening issue for another.
Do not pass a judgement about how contemplating suicide is a horrible thing to even think of. Instead try to accommodate their underlying emotions.
Gently suggest visiting a psychologist or help them connect to a helpline. You need to understand that no secret is greater than someone’s life. You may require to get a mental health professional or a responsible family member involved, if need be.
Offer support and encouragement. Stay connected to them even after the situation is under control.
Keep in mind the fact that you cant “fix” a loved one. However, you can be there for them, which makes a huge difference!
-Ms. Darshana Kulkarni