World Suicide Prevention Day: Why We Need To Be Less Judgmental And More Empathetic

Created by Nhiranjana Velavan

Is suicide a phenomenon that can be prevented?

Sound mental health is an asset that is often taken for granted. Some of peoplekind’s (Justin Trudeau reference) deadliest foes lurk in the depths of our own minds, within ourselves, feeding on everything that constitutes our persona, leaving desperation and hollowness in its wake.

I really wanted to pen this down on the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day. Few things are worse than losing someone to suicide, for nothing short of the direst of desperation drives someone to take their own life. We never know what goes on in people’s lives- the receptionist who greets you with a pleasant smile every day could be quagmired in an abusive relationship, the office-boy who serves you tea is probably trying to follow a dream that society has labelled ‘far above him’ or the girl next door, who you often nod politely to, is stuck in a career that evokes no passion and is desperately trying to hold onto her cargo in a sinking ship.

Everyone has problems, only that some are bigger than others. One has to remember that no tribulation is worth your own life. Often cliché lines such as ‘Only cowards kill themselves’, ‘Think about your parents’, ‘People who commit suicide end up in hell’, are used to dissuade those who frequently hint at ending their lives.

This falls short of the target by miles and only goes on to show the tone-deafness of people. The last thing someone wants to hear, when they are contemplating suicide, is being accused of cowardice. People harbour drastic thoughts only when they are pushed to the brink and are made to feel like failures. Reinforcing their beliefs that they are not brave enough to face their troubles, is definitely not the right way to go about it.

I personally knew someone who was inches away from ending his life, and the only thing that saved him was his own ignorance. This guy in question had a tumultuous relationship with his parents and was often physically and verbally abused at home. After a particularly humiliating incident that included a belt, a wooden stick and a series of “We wish you were dead”s and “You freeloading useless lump”s from his ‘parents’, he decided he’d had enough. What our hero failed to realise was that different poisons have different toxicities and not everything works like cyanide. One drop of a generic cleaning solution, though acrid enough to have a burning sensation on his tongue, failed to kill him. Almost six years have passed and he blesses his ignorant little soul (and doesn’t mind letting me write about it). Now, imagine telling such a person “Think about your parents”, keeping in mind his motive to end things. Not everyone has parents who care about them – this is the truth that Indian society refuses to accept. The vast majority has loving parents, but it doesn’t rule out the possibility that there are some who are stuck in abusive homes with no way out. It is also applicable to men and women who experience domestic violence every day, unable to bear the shame of allowing themselves to be mistreated and choose to kill themselves.

The one thing my friend can recall vividly is what he felt at the moment he prepared to leave everything behind. No, not his friends, his teachers who gave him a pat on the back for the high marks he scored or his school football team that he loved being a part of. None of those things. All he could feel was bliss of a divine sort, simple peace that washed over him as he realised he wouldn’t have to go through the shame of being treated like a punchbag without feelings. In the case of most Engineering students who commit suicide, a vast majority of letters bear the message “I don’t have to do this anymore”. People get stuck in situations that are difficult to get out of and that is what makes them give up. The aftermath of getting themselves out can be unpleasant. Divorcees are judged and dropouts are condemned, and those few brave souls who decide to seek professional help to deal with the mental agony of putting up a fight, are ridiculed.

What we lack is a good support system to help people deal with trauma. Very few ears are ready to listen but the same can’t be said about the number of mouths ready to offer unsolicited advice or condemning words. We don’t have a system that looks beyond what the survivors went through, what happened to them, shadows who they are. Empathy can go a long way in reducing suicides because what people need is to know that they’re not alone and that it is okay to seek help when they’re clueless about handling situations. Time heals everything and when one has no reason to live for, you just have to keep holding on until you find one.

What we can do is be empathetic and kind to those around us. Who knows, someone might have felt better by simply seeing us smile at them. The next time the Swiggy delivery guy is late, you would do well to recall the time you were running late to office, through no fault of yours, horrified at the prospect of facing your boss. Threatening your maid to replace her because her crying toddler back home keeps occupying her mind, when your mother, sister or wife has maternity benefits at their workplace, is an example of antipathy. One kind word can go a long way in restoring hope to those who need it.

Featured Image for representative purpose only.
Featured Image source:
Similar Posts

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

Share your details to download the report.

We promise not to spam or send irrelevant information.

A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

Sign up for the Youth Ki Awaaz Prime Ministerial Brief below