Suicide - Myths, facts and warning signs


Dr Lavina Noronha

Mangaluru, Sep 10: September 10 is observed all over the world as World Suicide Prevention Day as endorsed by World Health Organization for raising awareness about the causes of suicide and ways to prevent suicide. This is a humble effort to shed some light on this volatile issue.

Suicide is a major public health crisis all over the world which has grown to pandemic proportions in the last two decades. WHO estimates that each year more than one million people die by suicide worldwide which means there is one suicidal death every 40 seconds! The number of suicide attempts is 20 times higher than completed suicide.

India has one of the highest suicide rates for youth 15-29. The National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) published data in 2015 indicated that in India one student commits suicide every hour. Suicide is not just an individual problem- it affects the family, friends and the community at large. The good news is that suicide is preventable and you and I can collectively do our bit help those in crisis.

What are some myths about suicide?

1. Suicide is an act of cowardice and people who commit suicide take the easy way out:
No, it is not! It is easy for others to judge them and brand those who take this lethal step as selfish. Suicide is not a sign of weakness and generally those who are suicidal do not really want to die but want to end their suffering, pain or misery. They see no light at the end of the tunnel and the hopelessness and helplessness of the situation they are in prompts them to take a drastic step.

2. Those who say they want to kill themselves, seldom do:
One in ten people who are suicidal give enough signals about wrapping up life- verbal, behavioural, or symbolic (poetry, drawings, etc). Every suicide attempt or a passing threat should be taken seriously. Understanding these warning signs will help you to help others.

3. Suicide affects only people with mental illness:
Not everyone who attempts or dies by suicide is mentally ill. However, suicidal behaviour could be a symptom of some mental conditions. Studies have shown that approximately 54% of persons who have died by suicide did not have a psychiatric diagnosis.

4. Once suicidal, always suicidal:
This is not true. Suicidal thoughts are feelings are often short lived and are a consequence of life circumstances. That’s why once the suicidal crisis is over, the person may never think about it again. Therefore it is important for the person to talk to someone during the crisis period and hotlines help. Sometimes, the suicidal thoughts may return but they are not permanent.

5. Talking about suicide will lead to suicide:
It is because of the stigma attached to suicide and suicidal deaths, people often avoid talking about it. There are many school administrators in Mangalore who feel that by organizing awareness programs, you actually put suicidal ideas in the students’ heads. If the so called educated have these misconceptions one can only imagine the plight of general public.

6. People who threaten/attempt suicide are just seeking attention:
Suicidal behaviour- threats, attempts, etc often get wrongly labelled as attention seeking acts. Among teenagers, threatening to kill oneself is often the only way of getting the adults to notice that they are not feeling alright and need professional help. Sweeping it under the rug will only prove to be risky.

It is important to confront the stigma of suicide and look at those who are suicidal with understanding and compassion. Let us be careful not to label those who are fighting their own internal battles, struggling with a mental condition or cringing under extreme pressure. Not everyone is lucky enough to have a fool-proof support system and healthy coping skills.

What are some of the warning signs for suicide?

• Talking about wanting to die or looking for ways to kill oneself
• Expressing feeling hopeless, worthless, helpless or being a burden
• Feeling trapped or being in unbearable pain (physical or emotional)
• Looking/Acting anxious, agitated, reckless
• Sleeping too little or too much
• Increasing use of alcohol or drugs
• Isolating oneself from others, withdrawal from active life
• Showing rage or talking about revenge
• Exhibiting extreme mood swings

Mangalore Suicide Lifeline

Suicide Lifeline of Mangalore, a unit of Susheg Charitable Trust was launched on October 2, 2017, with a motto ‘Reaching out and Saving lives.’ Through this lifeline, free, confidential, emotional support is available 24X7 to those in suicidal crisis or emotional distress. Twenty trained volunteers have been responding to callers in distress. More than 385 callers have benefited from talking about their painful thoughts and feelings and the calls have lasted anywhere from 2 minutes to an hour and a half.

Youngest caller has been a 14–year-old and the oldest has been a 79-year-old. The causes of distress have been many and varied ranging from fear, anxiety about board exams, failure in examination, loneliness, broken romantic relationships, marital discord, extra-marital affair, stress, unemployment, family problems, debt, financial issues, harassment at work, domestic violence, elder abuse and neglect, property disputes to serious mental health problems like depression, drug/alcohol addiction and schizophrenia.

If you or any one you know is suicidal, please call (0824) 2983444.

Help is just a phone call away. Calla are received by an operator who puts the caller in touch with a volunteer trained in crisis intervention. Compassionate, non-judgmental front-line helpers will assist with empathetic listening, expert guidance and referral to professionals if needed. Lifeline volunteers are well trained to work with suicidal individuals and to engage people at risk and help them plan for their safety.

If one would like to be a volunteer and help those in distress, please call 73382 01234 or email susheglifeline@gmail.com and register names for the next volunteer training. Training is provided free of cost.

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Comment on this article

  • Philo Ferns, canada

    Tue, Sep 10 2019

    Nice article.. There is need for a movement to properly educate/counsel especially children at an young age in matters of self-esteem, confidence, courage etc. Women play a great part in this movement. Catholicwomenworldwide.com share your views and can be a part of this movement . We welcome writers to use this platform to write on subjects that are very important to children and families .
    Religious institutions/associations should also join in this movement . It has reached an epidemic proportion and need to confront from all angles
    William

    DisAgree Agree [3] Reply Report Abuse

  • Jossey Saldanha, Atlanta

    Tue, Sep 10 2019

    Parents should observe their Children in the first two years in College ...

    DisAgree Agree [4] Reply Report Abuse

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai

    Tue, Sep 10 2019

    Antidepressants though valuable, are habit forming and affect other bodily fun to a great extent!

    DisAgree [2] Agree Reply Report Abuse

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai

    Tue, Sep 10 2019

    Depression caused by chemical imbalance in the brain is also a leading cause of suicide! Also very intelligent and creative people are prone to suicide!

    Many depressed people may have to be on medication for a life long!

    DisAgree [1] Agree [1] Reply Report Abuse

  • Alwin, Mangalore

    Tue, Sep 10 2019

    School curriculum include moral science,sports and family environment. Up start school at 10 am and close at 5pm.Close down tutorials and value based education.Grading and competitive exam are source f depression. Teach goal s and the right method to approach. Teach every failure is the base for success. Money,name and game are not ultimate. Teach sharing and caring.build confidence in every failure and don't compare. Let teacher become caring and reduce the stress of teaching staff.Teach there is no end but it create new path

    DisAgree Agree [10] Reply Report Abuse

  • Mohan Prabhu, Mangalore (Kankanady)/Ottawa, Canada

    Tue, Sep 10 2019

    Well said. I would add that in a family relationship the lines of communication should be left open and not shut off; a compromise can always be worked out and that will lessen suicidal tendencies espeially among older folks.

    DisAgree Agree [6] Reply Report Abuse


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