World Suicide Prevention Day
World Suicide Prevention day (WSPD) is observed on 10th September every year. This was started in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO). This day focuses on bringing awareness on suicide among individuals and organizations and in reducing stigma over the immense suffering and upheaval that suicide causes.
The theme of “Creating Hope Through Action” serves as a reminder that every action counts, and even small gestures can be supportive and encouraging to people who are struggling with thoughts of suicide and that suicides are preventable. WSPD has been an initiative that has encouraged campaigns against suicide that are carried out at various local and national levels, and starting conversations on suicide which are important to prevention and reducing stigma. World Suicide Prevention Day reminds governments and local organizations that suicide prevention must be an important part of their policy.
WSPD is especially important in India as we had the 41st highest suicide rate globally as per WHO estimates in 2019. 12% of the deaths in 2021 were due to suicide. The rates of death by suicide are particularly alarming in the student population. According to a 2020 report by the National Crime Records Bureau, around 8.2% of the student population died by suicide and 64,114 people under the age of 30 took their own lives.
So how can we help?
There are a number of steps we, as a community can take to reduce these numbers. These steps can help reduce distress in individuals, distress which is unbearable to that person, and show them a path of hope and healing.
As an individual you can:
- Ask them if they are doing okay, if they are having thoughts of hopelessness, worthlessness and/or helplessness. If these themes are noticeable in how they speak, it would be best to ask if they are having suicidal thoughts, thoughts of harming themselves, or even wishing they were dead. If they have a plan, intent and/or means to harm/kill themselves, the situation is more dire.
- Remember to lend them a listening ear. The act of being there for them can go a long way; that simple gesture can really make the biggest difference. Don’t interrupt them; let them talk about their thoughts and feelings.
- Express your concern for them. Let them know that you are worried for them, and that seeking help is necessary and normal. There might be a lot of stigma around seeking help for mental health issues, hence being understanding about the person’s apprehension is important as well. Patience and understanding is key.
- If the person is very apprehensive or very unmotivated to seek help themselves, offer to stay by their side till they have another trusted person with them, or accompany them to a mental health professional where they can receive primary crisis intervention. It is crucial that they should not be left with their own thoughts for too long.
- Let them know that it is a judgment free space and that they are not alone.
As a community/institution
- Raise awareness about mental health and prevalence of mental illness. This will help clear doubts, reduce fear of judgment, reduce stigma, and be a source of comfort for those who really need to seek help.
- Having support groups within the college students will provide a safe space and opportunity for youngsters to confide in, and help each other regarding challenges they face every day.
- Improving college infrastructure to make sure the students are not put into uncomfortable spaces. Having a college environment which nurtures learning and growth is important.
- Educating teachers about common challenges faced by students would go a long way in increasing understanding and empathy.
- Making mental health accessible to students is crucial. Having a student counseling center would really make it convenient for students to avail this service; which is free of charge and right at their fingertips. These counselors would need to be culturally sensitive and informed about challenges faced by students, and even faculty. Fortunately, this service has been implemented in Ramaiah University of Arts & Sciences, and can be availed by students and faculty of Ramaiah at the Student Wellness Centre.
With your help they can take the first steps needed to heal, find hope, better their lives, and really appreciate life. These are just a few ways you can change a life, save a life, and “Be the light” for someone who really needs it.
Dr. Murali T
Department of Psychiatry