According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), globally, every year 800,000 deaths are the result of suicide making it one of the top 20 leading causes of death.
The frequency amounts to one suicide every forty seconds across all age groups of people. Although suicide kills the person who commits it, it devastates the people it leaves behind. In a way, the family, dependants and friends also become the victims of suicide.
Unfortunately, mental health problems are still a stigma across the world and very often if someone complains about having depressive feelings, their pleas for help are often dismissed and ignored.
Often, we come across friends or family asking us for help but, we simply suggest they go on vacation or watch a movie or spend time with loved ones. Although these experiences are important to be happy and healthy, they may not be enough for a person suffering from chronic depression and suicidal thoughts.
It is crucial to effectively address suicide and suicidal behaviour which includes suicide ideation or thoughts about committing suicide and attempts to commit suicide. Statistics indicate that almost 108 million people are affected by suicidal behaviour and for every suicide, 25 people are influenced to attempt suicide and many more think about attempting it.
Causes of Suicide
According to the Mental Health Foundation (UK), the causes of suicide stem from factors in individual, social, cultural and situational contexts. Some of the factors are as follows:
- Drug and alcohol misuse
- History of trauma or abuse
- Social isolation
- Poor social conditions
- Family breakdown
However, most suicides are the result of poor mental health or depression. The highest number of suicides are depression-related. In addition to depression, other causes of suicide include adolescent impulsiveness, psychiatric disorders, substance abuse, chronic pain, family suicidal history, and a prior suicide attempt.
The thought of suicide mostly generates from hopelessness regarding a situation wherein the person contemplating suicide or attempting it cannot see any solution to the problem. He or she fails to understand that any problem is temporary and instead of asking for help, they take a drastic step of ending their life.
World Suicide Prevention Day
Observed by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), World Suicide Prevention Day is on September 10th, 2019. The day is observed to raise awareness about suicide and the devastation it leaves behind. The day is marked by conferences, candle -lighting services, cycling events, speaker forums etc.
This year, like the last, the theme of the day is “working together to prevent suicide”. The same theme is to be continued by the IASP in the year 2020 as well. This theme was chosen by the IASP to highlight the importance of collaboration for the prevention of suicide.
The IASP firmly believes that each person has a role to play and together we have the power to prevent suicides. The IASP also encourages the participation of local organizations in every country, region, city etc. to organize events in observance of World Suicide Prevention Day.
Measures to Prevent Suicide and Suicidal Behaviour
Suicide is highly preventable and that’s what makes it all the more painful to deal with or come to terms with for loved ones of the victims. There is always a “we could have done more” or “wish we were there more” thought in the aftermath of a suicide.
While these reactions and feelings are natural and valid, they still do not solve the crisis of suicide. In many cases, even with the support of friends and family, suicides do happen. So how do we prevent suicide ideation and suicide?
Start with Yourself
The IASP calls for a multilevel and cohesive approach to prevent suicide and this must begin at the individual level with every person being a part of the change. Every person in the capacity of a member of the society, a peer, friend, colleague, family member, relative etc. can help prevent suicide.
This can be achieved by firstly having an open ear, empathy and a non-judgemental attitude toward those who are contemplating suicide or who have attempted it.
Creating an environment of compassion and care makes the person with suicidal tendencies open up and talk freely about what they are going through. Secondly, one can learn about this issue, spread awareness, fight the stigma surrounding suicide and mental health in general.
Multilevel Approach to Suicide Prevention
According to the Mental Health Foundation (UK), suicide prevention cannot be the exclusive responsibility of one sector. It reiterates the IASP’s statement of employing a multi-sectoral or multilevel approach to prevent suicide.
Starting from the individual or personal level to the family, professional networks, academic institutions, healthcare infrastructure, religious communities, and governments — the efforts of all these entities are very important to combat suicidal ideation, behaviour and suicide. There is research-based evidence that points to suicide prevention efforts being successful as a result of interventions at multiple levels.
At the academic level, schools can create a culture conducive to young people to talk about mental and emotional problems early on. This will help youngsters talk about as well as be receptive and sensitive to their friends and peers in the context of mental health and suicide.
Research shows that school programs on suicide prevention have shown positive results. At the higher academic and research level, every organization or institution working for suicide prevention must include the experiences of persons who have gone through suicidal tendencies in research, evaluation and intervention.
Doctors and medical staff have a key role to play in the prevention of suicide. It is important that doctors administer doses mindfully to persons who have overdosed on medicines.
Paramedical and emergency officials can ensure that persons who have attempted suicide receive a mental health assessment by a mental health specialist.
Overall, suicide is a highly preventable tragedy. With a multidisciplinary approach, the will of all stakeholders, and an empathetic ear, it is possible to drastically reduce the global suicide rate.
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- Suicide prevention ( 2019) https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide
- NHS. (2018). Health A-Z: Self-Harm Overview. Retrieved from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/self-harm/