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A dialogue will prevent suicidal thoughts from turning fatal

Studies in the USA have shown that reportedly 3.9% of the population has had suicidal thoughts. When we put the spotlight on the demographic of college students, more than 55% have felt suicidal; 18% seriously considered it; and 8% attempted it

opinion Updated: Dec 04, 2017 16:02 IST
Suicide,mental health,student suicide
Suicides can be prevented if we, as individuals and as a society, learn to look for warning signs and suicidal tendencies (Getty Images/iStockphoto)

Suicide is a complex beast. It is deceptively the solace of those who are unable to overcome trauma or mental illness of some form in their lives. At times, it is an impulsive or a spur-of-the-moment act, possibly related to drugs or alcohol. But so often, the decision to take one’s own life involves careful thought and weighted consideration. Often, suicide victims see the beast of suicide grow from a germ of an idea to an overwhelming philosophy that defeats their survival instinct and logic while promising release, relief and emancipation from the misery of their lives.

Suicides can be prevented if we, as individuals and as a society, learn to look for warning signs and suicidal tendencies. Feelings of hopelessness or desperation, panic attacks, rage, social isolation, irritability, self-loathing, feelings of uselessness, insomnia, recurring hints about ending one’s life, setting one’s affairs in order, attempting to get hold of ‘lethal means’ (pills, guns, etc.) – these are all warning signs. They are actually cries for help.

Studies in the USA have shown that reportedly 3.9% of the population has had suicidal thoughts. When we put the spotlight on the demographic of college students, more than 55% have felt suicidal; 18% seriously considered it; and 8% attempted it.

In the past, suicide has been trivialised. In Great Britain for example, attempting suicide was a crime punishable by hanging in the 19th century. An attempt to take one’s own life was punished by having the state take his or her life away! The same law was a part of the Indian constitution and suicide was decriminalised only in 2017, nearly 70 years after Independence. Better late than never, but suicide and mental illnesses now need to be treated with sensitivity and compassion. We need to start listening. We need to start caring. We need to start doing something about it.

We need to encourage dialogue. Stigma is hard to contend with. Attitudes are deep-rooted, often ingrained through conditioning, and affect the way people behave. Attempting to stamp out stigma is an ongoing and long-drawn effort. But every step takes us closer to the fruition of this effort. Helplines, forums, mutual aid fellowships (such as Suicide Anyonymous) and the government’s intervention with supportive programs are the immediate need of the hour.

And lastly, we need to look at ourselves. Are any of the symptoms of mental disorders relatable to you? Do you see any red flags for yourself? Are you suffering in silence? If yes, then the first thing you need to do is get aware, accept it and then seek help. Do know you are not alone. And there is no shame in seeking help to get better.

Neerja Birla is the founder and chairperson of Mpower

The views expressed are personal

First Published: Dec 04, 2017 16:02 IST