World Mental Health Day: Catch ‘signals’ early to avert self-harm cases, say experts - Hindustan Times
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World Mental Health Day: Catch ‘signals’ early to avert self-harm cases, say experts

By, Lucknow
Oct 09, 2023 08:23 PM IST

Patients suffering from chronic ailments or recovering from major surgery have a higher chance of committing suicide, according to a systematic review. Experts say that these patients often exhibit signals before their deaths, and if these signals are acknowledged, deaths can be prevented. Common mental health symptoms include changes in behavior, withdrawal from social life, and a dejection towards life. Early intervention and treatment are key in helping these patients.

The sudden death of patients suffering from chronic ailments or recuperating after major surgery has a possible mental illness connection, and they (patients) give signals before they die, say experts adding: “If you acknowledge them (signals) deaths can be averted.

For representation only (HT File Photo)
For representation only (HT File Photo)

“Patients with chronic ailments such as diabetes, or who have undergone major surgery recently, have 40% chance of committing suicide as compared to people who are not ill, who have between 12% and 15% chance of attempting it, a systematic review of different research papers finds,” said Dr Adarsh Tripathi, senior faculty member at the department of psychiatry, at the KGMU.

He said, “Such patients coming to our OPD are referred by their treating doctors and even brought by their family, in equal proportion, when they are able to sense a mental issue.” These patients, he said, can be anywhere, around us and even in our houses.

“A majority of those diagnosed with chronic ailments initially ask what the outcome of treatment will be and whether they will survive the treatment or not,” said Dr Devashish Shukla, medical superintendent at the Kalyan Singh Super Speciality Cancer Institute and Hospital (KSSSCIH).

Dr Shukla, who is a qualified psychiatrist from KGMU, and had been senior consultant at psychiatry department of the Balrampur Hospital, said, “At least one or two such patients came to the hospital OPD in a week, and I can say that with early intervention over 90% respond well. Even at KSSSCIH, patients ask about the outcome of the treatment. We identify the reason behind their fear and motivate them for treatment.”

Chronic ailments make the person apprehensive about life and finances ahead. There are biological reasons too for depression. Medically, with high sugar, the body releases a cellular toxin and that, in the long run, adversely affects the brain along with other vital organs. These toxins cause mental illness, said Dr Tripathi.

Mental disorders have mostly been associated with illnesses causing pain or illnesses that have reported high mortality, for example cancer. People think now it is the end, despite advances in medical sciences. Early detection and treatment increase survival rate but in many cases the toxin used as medicine affects the cells. Patients might also suffer memory loss, he said.

“Among chronic ailments is arthritis. When a patient ignores the disease for long and they lose their ability to move even inside their room due to excessive pain, they often think negatively about life. But eventually, after counselling and treatment, their perspective towards life changes,” said Dr Sandeep Kapoor, director Healthcity hospital and an eminent joint replacement surgeon.

The second category of illnesses that causes mental illness is related to accidents, where the patient suffers major injury, changing their lives. If they suffer with lower back pain or have to leave the routine they followed before the accident, it has a negative impact.

In case of a road accident or in burn cases, the impact is quick and acute where patient suffers psychologically and emotionally.

How to identify such patients

Dr Adarsh Tripathi said that the first signal a patient in depression gives is change in behaviour, where they may withdraw from social life or may start expressing things in a more emotional manner. They may reduce their involvement in daily life with family or may overreact to things.

Another strong symptom among patients suffering mental illness is dejection to life.

“The fourth and must-watch symptom is coping with the situation wrongly. They might not express anger or sadness or not even say negative things, but they might reduce their food intake, stop entertainment that they used to practise, talk passive or become non-engaging in activities they liked earlier,” said Dr Tripathi.

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