September 10, 2018
The 10th of September is World Suicide Prevention Day. With an increase in the cases of suicides each year, this is as good a time as any to create awareness of how it can be prevented.
Apart from its mind-boggling beauty and majesty, if we observe the way God has designed the universe and how it operates, we will see two things: life begins from a little dot; and, giving a little is all it takes to change someone’s life forever.
The mighty sequoia has its beginning in a seed as little as a grain of rice; giant waves that crash the shorelines begin as tiny ripples; gigantic whales begin life as a tiny cell. In fact, our unfathomably massive universe is a sum of tiny atoms.
A human being may be made up of a hundred trillion cells, each cell tremendously complex, yet to be fully understood. Interestingly, the precious human life, too, starts as a tiny cell.
Over the years, I have spent time with several suicidal individuals. I can tell from my counselling experience that all it takes is, indeed, a little to save a life and open new doorways for a person who at that moment sees every avenue shutting down around him. It did not matter if it was the married man whose unfaithful wife had walked out on him and their little son; or whether it was the school-going girl who had made some serious mistakes and then lost all hope in life; or the young woman who did not want to live because of the way she was being treated by her mother and siblings; or the young man whose girl friend “dumped” him for another; or the young graduate who failed in several job interviews and began to think that he was a worthless individual.
We can all be someone to somebody. We are not called to do great things; we are called to do little things with love. And, therein, is also our true joy; for it is giving that we receive!
Most people who commit suicide do not do so without some contemplation. It is a thought that would have occurred to them time and again. And during that process, their behaviour would go through discernible changes.
There is no expertise needed to sense a change in someone you know. Even a child can sense if the parent is upset. A change does not necessarily mean that a person is going to harm himself; but, a change cannot be ignored. So how do we navigate through this dilemma? Simple: we don’t guess. The worst thing we can do is ignore or act indifferent when we notice something is amiss in the person’s behaviour.
Although this is not an exhaustive list of signs, usually a person under duress will look withdrawn, may become disinterested in something that was of interest before, may not want to mingle with people, may either lose appetite or eat too much, may take up to alcohol or other substances, may express that life is not worth living, and so on.
With human beings, one size does not fit all, but here are some simple “rules” to follow when we want to reach out to a person:
- Approach with genuine concern and be sensitive.
- Ask, “Are you okay?”
- Give time and an attentive ear.
- You could ask, “I hope you are not thinking of hurting yourself,” (depending on what your friend is telling you).
- Check on the person.
- Encourage by saying, “I am sure we can find someone to help.” Or, “Let’s get help.”
- Give assurances by saying something like, “I am here for you whenever you need me.” (Please mean what you say!)
- Never say things like, “O that’s nothing; many people go through problems.”
- Don’t say, “I know how it feels.”
- Don’t brush away the situation by saying, “It will go away.”
- Don’t judge in any way (like saying, “How could you do such a thing?”)
- Don’t say things like, “My God, what on earth were you thinking!”
If the person has expressed either directly or indirectly that he or she does not feel life is worth living, don’t leave the person’s side till you can find a way to inform someone who can intervene. If you have to seek another person’s help, only inform someone in authority, or someone you trust.
Remember, you are not to play the expert and the same applies to me. The suicidal person needs to be assured that you are there for him or her. The most comforting thing, when a person is going through a rough time, is for him to know that someone cares.
Even if you think your friend is feeling better after sharing with you, take a small, but an all-important ‘no-suicide pledge.’ You can simply ask the person to promise you that he will not do anything to harm himself and that he will wait till you get help.
If you yourself are feeling low and everything seems hopeless, you need to know that there is always a way out.
It does not matter which part of the world you are living in, pick up the phone and call a suicide helpline number, if you feel distressed. Most countries have their own helpline numbers.
Suicide Lifeline, based in Mangaluru City, has a number that can be accessed from any part of the world. From outside India, call +91-824-2983444; from within India, call 0824-2983444. They will put you in touch with trained volunteers who are on call 24x7. Total confidentiality is maintained by them and the volunteers will do everything possible to help the person in distress.
Let’s make this simple pledge: On my watch, I will do everything I can to save a precious life. So help me God.
Before I sign off, I would like to recall one of the most uplifting verses in the Holy Bible, “Whatever I have, wherever I am, I can make it through anything in the One who makes me who I am.”