POST TIME: 11 October, 2019 05:20:53 PM
Understanding warning signs for preventing suicide
Independent Online/ Deccan Chronicle

Understanding warning signs for preventing suicide

To avoid feeling more negative emotions, individuals isolate themselves. Photo: Representational/Pixabay

According to the World Health Organization, there are approximately 800,000 deaths by suicide worldwide. This means, on average, 1 suicidal attempt every 40 seconds. Suicide is now a public health concern. Because of some myths around suicide, we fail to identify warning signs and not offer vital help and support. 2019’s World Mental Health Day 2019, which is celebrated on Oct 10th, is themed ‘focus on suicide prevention. On the occasion, Ms Niharika Mehta, Psychologist,Hiranandani Hospital Vashi-A Fortis Network Hospital demystifies some of the common myths:

1. Myth: People who are suicidal are weak

Fact: Suicide is an attempt to escape physical and emotional pain. They don't want to die; they want the pain to stop.

2. Myth: People who attempt suicide are mad

Fact: Most often, people with a diagnosis of a mental illness think about suicide. But, not all individuals who think about suicide have a mental disorder. Most commonly, Depression, Anxiety and thoughts of suicide come together. Every single individual will experience Depression at some point in life; it is like a common fever. Therefore, attaching such strong labels does nothing but adds to one's emotional pain.

3. Myth: People who talk about suicidal intentions are only seeking attention

Fact: It is not easy to talk about your feelings. So when someone has said that they are thinking about suicide, they have gathered immense courage to voice their thoughts and emotions. They should always be taken seriously. Yes they are seeking attention as a cry for help; they want someone to notice they are not feeling okay. They should be given all the emotional support they ask for.

4. Myth: Asking if one is suicidal, triggers the behaviour and encourages attempting suicide

Fact: Thoughts about suicide begin when there is no visible escape or solution to the problem. Most often, these individuals do not want a solution. They only want to be accepted and given support to cope with problems by themselves. So asking about suicidal thoughts does not encourage them to act. It shows that you noticed their pain and you are ready to support them in their difficult time.

5. Myth: They never ask for help

Fact: Decision to attempt suicide does not happen overnight. Individuals may not ask for help directly, but warning signs are always present. You only need to look for it and do something about it.

Warning Signs

Mood swings: When coke is poured into a glass, the soda tends to spill over; but if we let it settle down, you can pour some more. Similarly, when there is an emotional turmoil on the inside, a little tends to spill out. Sometimes it will be anger, or irritation, or sadness or frustration, or any emotion. So when there are mood swings, it is a sign that there are unsettled emotions and the only way to settle it is to let it out. Others are expected not to pass any judgement or comments or opinions. Instead, asking what they need to feel better is a great way to show your support.

Hopelessness and Helplessness: As mentioned before, when there is no visible solution to a problem, individuals feel trapped. With this comes feeling hopeless and helpless. These are ways of saying that one is feeling hopeless and helpless.

"Nothing will change"

"Nobody can help me"

"Life will always be this miserable"

"It won't matter if I live or die"

"I am a burden"

"My friends and family will be better off without me"

"I don't feel like I belong here"

"Will it matter if I stop existing?"

"How will my absence make any difference?"

"I am tired of life"

Sleeplessness or over-sleeping: On one hand, because of the turmoil going on inside, it is difficult to relax one's mind and sleep. On the other hand, one may be mentally exhausted and has no energy left. Thus, these individuals will have poor sleep quality and would want to sleep more than usual.

Reckless behaviour with harmful consequences: If one is thinking about suicide, the consequences of behaviour may not matter. Individuals may consciously behave recklessly to relieve emotional pain. Behaviours such as excessive drinking or smoking, breaking laws, being rebellious, starving oneself or eating excessively unhealthy or allergic foods, constantly getting into fights and arguments etc. are passive self-injurious behaviours.

Social isolation: Being amongst people takes a lot of mental energy. So individuals who are emotionally exhausted may find it extremely difficult to engage in social activities. Furthermore, social situations could be a reminder of their problems and emotional pain. To avoid feeling more negative emotions, individuals isolate themselves.