Credits – The Hindu
- Every hour one student commits suicide in India, with about 28 such suicides reported every day, according to data compiled by the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
- According to a 2012 Lancet report, suicide rates in India are highest in the 15-29 age group — the youth population.
- Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and questioning youth are almost 5 times more likely to attempt suicide
Learn from opinion of experts.
Whether you encounter a casual remark from a friend about the pointlessness of living or a message on social media o someone wanting to take theirs, it is always a good idea to take it seriously. It could be an early signal or last warning signals or a last minute interventions to save someone’s life.
In fact, 80% of those with suicide ideation are ambivalent and if consulted appropriately, a majority does not take the extreme steps, says Dr Lakshmi Vijayakumar, Chennai-based psychiatrist and founder of Sneha, a suicide prevention and crisis helpline.
Understand the urgency
Any message that signals death: “sleep forever”, “want to leave this space”, besides more obvious ones like “I do not want to live”, should all be prompts to reach out, for those of us reading them. But what if you do not know the person at all? Even if there is a mismatched emoji attached to telling messages, treat every word as an emergency.
Reach out immediately
Do not undermine the thought or attempt to make a diagnosis, so avoid writing back and asking the person if they are depressed, for instance. Instead, write back or find a contact number to speak directly. It is important to establish physical or emotional contact without wasting time. Introduce yourself and express your concern, but in a calm voice. Offer to help in any way you can, say, Dr C Ramasubramanian, who established the MS Chellamthu Trust.
Engage in conversation
The objective should be to prevent them from carrying out the death wish. “Ask about friends, family, neighbours, place of residence and allow the person to talk as much as long. Do not shift the focus of conversation from them.” says Chennai-based psychiatrist and ex-director of SCARF, Dr Thara Srinivasan.
Create a Supportive Space
Tell the person you totally understand their feelings and believe it is a phase that shall pass. Assure that there is a helpline available and that will stay on the phone with them for as long as they would like you to. The person may be rude, but adopt a non-conventional approach.
Understand the person is under psychological distress and an alternative-narrative makes them think and gives hope, says Dr Mukherjee. Help them to remember their hobbies that they can return to. Never advise but resonate with the person’s feelings.
Make a commitment
Ask if you can make a plan (like meeting them for a coffee the next morning). If you find out they are good at something – like poetry for instance – ask if you can call next day so they can read you some. Remind them of the protective factors that kept them happy earlier.
If they talk about supportive parents, caring spouse or children, build on that gently to make them feel less agitated. This is also an activation of a person’s internal and external resources.