Mental illness often carries a lot of stigmas, it has always been a quiet variable from the past to the present. According to WHO, suicide is thought to be responsible for over 0.8 million fatalities annually, or one every 40 seconds.
Research has found that suicide is the second most common cause of death among people aged between 15 and 29. Around 79% of suicide take place within low and middle-income countries, where most of the world’s population are based.
World Suicide Prevention Day is an awareness day observed on 10th September every year to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides. ‘Creating hope through action’ is the triennial theme for World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021–2023.
Suicide ranks among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. Unfortunately, it’s frequently said that fearful or cowardly people are inclined to choose the ‘easy’ way out, but it is not so easy. Every year, millions of people affected by suicidal behaviour have distinctive voices and exclusive insight.
Suicide is a complex issue; therefore, suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labour, agriculture, business, justice, law, defence, politics, and the media.
Like most public health problems, suicide is also preventable
A person might be depressed, not just feeling down. It might be he/she is thinking about killing himself if it happens more than you think, more than you should, and people close to the person who commits suicide usually say we had no idea. They thought it was just a phase he was going through, he would have come to me; I wish he had said something when it was too late.
Suicidal behaviour typically exhibits distress-related warning indicators. For instance, it could be in direct form like ‘I am going to kill myself’, or it could be in indirect form like ‘I hope I could fall asleep and never wake up again’, Social network and their online post can also relate to their mood which includes a change in behaviour, thoughts and appearance.
Talking about being a burden to others, mood swings or talking about seeking revenge. Other signs include hopelessness, anger, anxiety, engaging in risky activities, increased alcohol and drug use, acting reckless, sleeping less or sleeping more, and withdrawal from the social circle.
What to do?
These signs should not be ignored. It is vital to pick up these signs where parents, teachers, and peers can lend a helping hand. They need a listening ear who can provide them with empathy and compassion and one who should not make any discriminatory judgment.
So if you think a child is acting different, then,
- Assure them there is a solution for every problem, and they will not feel like this forever.
- Say, I am sorry you are feeling so bad; how can I help (show empathy)?
- A modest act can inspire optimism in them and go a long way.
- Ones you get to know about suicidal behaviour, and you find that it seems tough to handle it, then never agree to keep it a secret. Instead, you should tell the appropriate caregiving adult (parents, teacher, psychologist) who can give him better assistance to resolve the problem.
How school can be helpful?
Most of the student’s day is spent in class. Teachers can evaluate their behaviour by noting rapid declines in academic performance, behavioural changes, frequent absences from class, aggressiveness, and withdrawal from social activities, among other things.
It is crucial for all school staff to get familiar with these signs to watch these issues and help this student be resilient.
Schools can provide students with opportunities for guidance and counselling with counsellors in every school. This could be beneficial to students, where they can feel safe sharing information.
A counsellor can conduct a suicide risk assessment and intervene with students who are at risk of suicide. Parents are key members of a suicide risk assessment as they often have critical information for making an appropriate assessment of risk, including mental health, history, family dynamics, recent traumatic events, and previous suicidal behaviours.
Parental notifications must be documented. So that it could become easy to resolve the problem. The school must inform parents, and recommendations and referrals to community service should be given. Then the responsibility falls on parents to provide mental health help for their children.
Parents must consider to do
- Threats must be taken seriously after the child has calmed down and exhibited a behavioural shift.
- Avoid assuming behaviour is simply attention-seeking but simultaneously avoid reinforcing suicide threats.
- Access communication with the support school. The school will also offer follow-up support once a child’s intervention is finished. To make sure that your child is as safe and comfortable as possible at school, it is imperative that parents communicate with one another.
Resiliency factors for suicidal behaviour
There are various protective factors which could minimize suicidal behaviour. People who have a good social system have a lower risk of suicide. The companionship of resiliency factors can reduce the potential risk elements leading to suicidal behaviours.
If a child is considered at risk, schools, families, and friends can work to build resilience factors around. ‘Working together to prevent suicide’ has been preferred internationally to draw attention to what we can all do our bit to help those struggling to cope.
Hobbies can be a great source to divert suicidal attention and engage the person in the right direction. Family support and cohesion, a strong peer support system, a good social network, school parents, and community connectedness can buffer youth at risk of suicide.
Life satisfaction, good self-esteem, and easy access to efficient medical and mental health resources also minimize the potential of suicide. Religion and spiritual belief also help to experience the light of hope, faith, and confidence; it trims down the risk of depression in times of mounting stress, facilitates recovery, and diminishes suicide risk.
Promotion of life skills like problem-solving skills, coping skills, ability to adapt to change also help to inhibit suicidal behaviour and promote healthy living among individuals.
Manisha Dhami is a PhD student at Punjab Agricultural University. She carries out research in human development.