World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is marked as a day of awareness suicide prevention around the world. This day is observed on 10 September every year, to provide global commitment and action to prevent suicides, coupled with awareness drives. There are several stigmas and stereotypes that are still attached to suicide and mental health, making it difficult for people to reach out, especially the ones who are in need. A global study shows that over 800,000 people commit suicide worldwide every year, of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India, a nation with 17.5% of the world population. Between the year 1987 and 2007, the suicide rate increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000, with higher suicide rates in southern and eastern parts of India. Due to the current awareness drives and greater access to mental health care, the suicide rate seems to have decreased in the urban areas of the country. However, the same cannot be said about the rural areas. There can be several reasons for which people commit suicide, most common amongst them in India are – drug use, family related problems, poverty, and unemployment. There are no easy answers or cure to the problem. But there are ways through which you can contribute to preventing suicides.

Help to Self: If you are having suicidal thoughts, you’re not alone. In fact to realise that you might have these thoughts might be helpful. This means you have not yet given in to the overwhelming depression and devoid yourself of all hope. It takes a lot of courage to face death and step back from. Use the courage to face life, overcome depression, and find the strength to keep moving forward. Remember:

  1. Your emotions are not constant. They can always change. What you feel today can still be different from yesterday and tomorrow.
  2. Your absence would bring greater grief and anguish to your friends and loved ones. Therefore, reach out for help, if not for yourself but at least for them.
  3. There are sights, sounds, and experiences in life that can make you happy – embrace those feelings.

Help to others: A person who is suicidal may not “ask for help” directly, but that doesn’t mean that help not wanted. Most of the people who feel suicidal don’t want to die — they want to stop hurting. Suicide prevention can only happen if you recognise the warning signs and taking them seriously. Some of the few ways to help out are:

  1. Create: It is crucial to the create a safe environment around a suicidal person. The setting helps the individual to express, be hopeful and open to help.
  2. Communicate: Communication is the key to all problems especially to a person who is experiencing the darkness or negativity. You can do this by being non – judgemental and show your availability to listen.
  3. Care: Care is fundamental to prevention because people with suicidal thoughts believe that that they are in it alone and nobody cares. Small gestures of concern such as a hug, smile or a pat on the back can do wonders.

However, It is imperative to understand the three C’s will only work if you listen and just listen. It is human tendency to advise after you hear someone’s problem. You do it because you care and want to help. But, several psychological studies show that giving suggestions without medical/expert help can do more harm than good. A suicidal person is already in a tipping point, and one wrong word can push them off the edge.

Hence, encouraging (your loved) one to seek professional help from a psychologist/ counsellor is the best way to deal with the issue. Various NGOs and counsellors have 24x7 helpline numbers that make advice and guidance available, just a call away.

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(The views expressed here are my own and shouldn’t be construed as the views of any of my employers/partners, present or past)

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