Unmute Yourself to keep Suicidal Tendencies at Bay
Ms. Srishti Saha
Consultant Clinical Psychologist
Department of Mental Health & Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Hospital Anandapur
Rohan (name changed), a 17 year old boy, sat in his room, one rainy afternoon, wondering when it was that his life fell apart. The darkness of the clouds matched that of his mind. As he opened the drawer that contained the pills he intended to take, to end it all, he thought of all the things in his life that were going wrong. His parents going through a bitter divorce, his own relationship conflicts, and his academic failures. “What is the point of living this life?”, “No one cares if I die”, “People would be better off if I were dead”, and “What a sweet relief, death would be, from all this pain”, were just some of the terrible thoughts going through his mind. Suddenly, the shrill ring of his mobile phone jolted him out of his reverie- a call from an old childhood friend. A friend who had always been there for him. As he started talking to his old buddy, the clouds in his mind started to shift a little. Even though he had not yet told him what he was about to do, hearing his familiar voice brought back all the happy memories of his early years. Life, suddenly, did not seem all that bleak. Rohan finally broke down and told his friend, the horrific act he was about to commit. Though shocked, his friend made him promise not to do any such thing; called his mother and informed him; and rushed to be by his side.
Unfortunately, not everyone, may be as lucky as Rohan. Fate may not intervene in the form of a well-timed call from a loved one, for every person battling with suicidal thoughts. The world may often feel like a harsh place and it may seem impossible to go on. Most of the times, however, these situations, will be temporary. Time heals everything and we will not continue to feel as miserable. But, the finality of suicide cannot be denied. If we keep all the pain bottled inside, if we don’t reach out for help, if we don’t let anybody in, we might end up acting on our thoughts and take an action which is permanent- from which there is no turning back. All we will leave behind, in the aftermath, is a beautiful life, waiting to be lived; and some distraught loved ones, grappling with this tragedy for the rest of their lives.
According to WHO, over 800,000 people die by suicide annually, representing 1 person every 40 seconds. And these are all preventable deaths. India accounted for the highest estimated number of suicides overall in 2012. Also, close to 135 people are affected by each suicide death. This equates to 108 million people bereaved by suicide worldwide every year.
Why do people commit suicide? There is perhaps no simple answer to this. It may be the result of a convergence of risk factors including, but not limited to, genetic, psychological, social and cultural risk factors, sometimes combined with experiences of trauma and loss.
The bigger question perhaps is ‘Why aren’t these deaths prevented?’ One of the biggest reasons for this perhaps is that people don’t always talk about their suicidal thoughts or ideas. It is highly acceptable for people to talk about what ails them physically, but when it comes to emotional problems, silence becomes the convention. May be it is the stigma that stops people from talking about their loss of hope. Perhaps it is the fear that their depression may be misconstrued as a sign of personal weakness. Or maybe it is a fear of burdening others with their problems and putting them in an awkward spot.
Whatever be the reason, it is time that we end this trend of silence. It is time that talking about mental health problems becomes as normalised as talking about diseases and illnesses. The way we look at things needs to shift. Instead of worrying about burdening others, we need to believe that they might derive happiness from having helped someone. Instead of fretting about being perceived as vulnerable, we need to focus on overcoming the current odds. Rather than worry about the stigma, we need to feel proud for making it easier for the next person to talk about his negative thoughts.
So, let us pledge to talk openly about negative emotions, disturbing thoughts, and defeatist ideas. By talking about it, we can give vent to the distress; reach out for support; reduce the feelings of helplessness; and learn new ways to deal with our problems. By keeping shut, we increase our agony and more importantly, propagate the wrong notion that we must always be composed and fine. Let us bare our scars so that the world learns that its ok to have them- scars are the signs of having fought. But, battles are rarely fought alone. So speak out and call for your army. It can be your friends, your family, your teachers, your colleagues. Sometimes, it can even be strangers who have gone through the same things or it can be mental health professionals who are trained to handle such situations. You are not alone. Don’t isolate yourself. Unmute yourself.