Suicide is the leading cause of death among young people between the age group 15–29, yet it rarely occurs without warning. Although the past ten years have been revolutionary in terms of medication and treatment for individuals with suicidal tendencies, the power of suicide lies in its invisibility. However, suicidal states are almost always temporary and hence, intervention and recognition at the right time can save lives. Suicide can be highly preventable if red flags are identified and not ignored. Reaching out to the ones in need and educating ourselves on the causes and consequences of suicide can be an essential first step.
Some of the early warning signs of suicide include helplessness, ideation (thinking about suicide), substance abuse, dramatic changes in mood, suicide notes or diary entries, talking about suicide, self-harm, isolation, family history of suicide, impulsive tendencies, history of trauma, etc. Although suicide is usually associated with mental illnesses and disorders, it can also be triggered by specific events such as the death of a friend or family member, poor academic streaks and loss of relationships.
Bullying is one of the major causes of depression and suicide amongst the youth. Immediate reporting of bullying on campus or social media along with offering help or standing up for the victim can help the individual’s anxiety from snowballing. Actively working towards eliminating the stigma around mental illness and suicide must be practised. Normalizing the idea of talking about suicide and leaving doors open for such conversations will do more good than one imagines. We must also be sensitive to the issues around us that they face in spite of them being irrelevant to our problems. It is not always needed to relate to the suffering of others, but it is important to be empathetic towards them. The stigma around therapy and medication has contributed to the mental health decline of many who could have gotten better. Mental health awareness and becoming an advocate for suicide prevention plays a crucial role.
It is also important to be aware of where and whom to go for help in times of adversity. Complete knowledge of national suicide helplines, support groups, text lines, therapists and psychiatrists is necessary. Online courses for training in suicide prevention are readily available nowadays (e.g. QPR — Question, Persuade, Refer) for those who are not professional or qualified health providers.
Reaching out to survivors and learning about their experiences and journey to improved mental health can educate us to help the ones around us who are currently suffering. Instead of pouring out our sympathies to the families who have lost their loved ones, we must provide resources and support to help them cope with the trauma. In the most unfortunate of times, if suicide can’t be prevented, there are appropriate ways to deal with such tragedies. Flooding social media accounts of victims or their families with opinions that criticize the act as cowardice or selfish is harmful and must be avoided at all costs.
Reaching out to survivors and learning about their experiences and journey to improve mental health can educate us to help the ones around us who are currently suffering. While we provide support to those around us, we must equip ourselves to be able to provide resources to help them cope with the trauma. In case you are providing support to someone who has lost someone to suicide, it is important to be respectful in your support and mindful of their grief.
It is imperative that we as a society stop denouncing suicide as an act of cowardice and come forth to provide support, empathy and resources for help, while changing the narrative to push towards the de-stigmatising of mental health issues.
Shruti Venkatesh is a Research Associate (Mental Health) at One Future Collective.
Note: this article was first published at One Future Collective.