September 10 has been observed as World Suicide Prevention Day every year across the globe. Rising up to the need of more awareness in this part of our world,Rayburn College conducted an Essay Competition on Suicide Prevention, under the aegis of the Staff Community and the Counselling Office. The Essays writtenin this competition are open for publication so as to help spread more awareness on suicide prevention, in the best interest of the public. The following essay is adjudged to be the First Prize Winner:
TO SAVE A LIFE
ESSAY ON SUICIDE PREVENTION
Samuel P. Khammuonlien
V Sem B.A (English Honours)
Amidst all the lives claimed by the infamous blue whale challenge game, and the hype begotten out if it, I would like to throw some light on suicide and how we can prevent it. If this is plagiarism, the following paragraphs will be Google answers to the searches – suicide prevention, causes and effects of suicide,among other internet searches. But it is not so, and so wouldn’t I squash water because everything out there is known to all.
Here, I would like to introduce a new method to do away with the traditional method of essays, articles and other forms of literature that are written meticulously on suicide, organising suicide awareness campaigns that no one attends, existing counselling programmes and ministries that are willing to help but are helpless without suicidals reaching out to them. I am not saying any of those acts is futile, but provided the recent suicide cases in local context, it is not effective enough. So in the words of the fictional character, Atticus, in Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mocking Bird, to climb into someone’s skin and walk around in it, we need to start viewing things from both perspectives and not a counsellor’s, as is usually done. But before we delve deeper into that, we will talk of the many aspects on why people commit suicide.
The first and foremost reason behind most suicide cases is depression. Most suicide cases trace its root to it. Research suggests 50 per cent to 90 per cent of all suicides are because of depression. Depressed young adults are prone to risky situations and confronted with major life changes as they assume adult roles. In mainland India, many farmers commit suicide because of debts. But so far as the local context is concerned, adults who commit suicide are mostly due to experiments with drugs and alcohol,the ensuing addiction and its inevitable outcome.
Other reasons why people may commit suicide are psychological problems, some have the philosophical desire to die, and some others because of mistakes made.
WHAT IS BEING DONE?
In China, companies and businesses hang protective nets around their buildings to prevent employees from committing suicide; in USA, access to loaded firearms and other lethal weapons have been reduced. That is how most suicides occur in their respective countries. But in local context, no suicide preventive measures of those sorts can be done and need not be done since a-rope-around-the-neck is how we do it, and so we have to continue resorting to suicide prevention awareness and counselling programmes. But taking into account the growing suicide cases in town recently, can these measures be deemed effective?
Statistics say that the more educated the person, the less likely he or she will commit suicide. This is because of the awareness he or she has been exposed to. If so then, what about the uneducated who are beyond the reach of the media? Who misses out on the suicide prevention awareness programmes, and who don’t read NO TO SUICIDE on billboards, posters and hand outs, much less who can’t read them? What about those who haven’t the faintest idea of how to approach counselling ministries, let alone know the existence of it? A hospital with regular doctors and staff but no patients is as useful as carrying water to the sea. And what about the people who come from broken homes wherein the father comes homedrunk every night? Or, the father who has taken to drinking because he has debts and now doubling his trouble wants to end his life? Or the teenager who has just been cheated on by one’s girlfriend or boyfriend? Who is to say one person’s depression is diminutive to another? One question begs, don’t we all come from broken families?
‘TO CLIMBINTO SOMEONE’S SKIN AND WALK AROUND IN IT’
This basically means to put ourselves in someone else’s shoes and walk around in it. Suicide prevention is not just about the process involved in the therapyandthe healing, but most importantly about finding the unreachable. Before we questionwhy people don’t approach counselling programs that are sure to help, it is good to question why they should. For this, we need to think like them.
Envisage this scenario: you are depressed. You are suicidal. You want to live and you want to die at the same time. You’re on the fence, thinking about what to do. Things are wrong in every way possible. Should one more wrong occur, it’ll trigger your death. But you decide to give life another chance. You walk around, you see papers, billboards and handouts that say NO TO SUICIDE in big bold letters with helpline numbers but you don’t care. You go home but there is no one to talk to. Suicide is taboo and talks on it are frowned upon. You ask your friends about suicide or what they’d do if you die but they brush you away in shock saying that is not to be talked about, that they’re busy or they talk about themselves. You conclude no one understands you, so you decide to end your life.
There can be many other instances wherein you’re in debt, you’re impulsive because of addiction and so on.
You don’t necessarily have to be involved in counselling programmes or participate in the awareness programmes at home, with friends and closed ones. Suicidal persons trust friends over counsellors so YOU play a vital role.
No depression is diminutive to another. You have to forget that you’re 16, or 24, or 67 years old. If a person is in trouble, place yourself in his shoes and think. If I may be allowed a little generalization, this is where most parents fail. They refrain from listening to their children’s problems as kids but wonders why they shutoff when their children become teenagers. You may be signing off a hundred crore deal at work but if your little girl is depressed about losing her favourite doll, that is as big a problem as the hundred crore deal.
Some warning signs to look out forare- feelings of hopelessness or desperation, insomnia, panic attacks, social isolation, rage, irritability, feelings of being a burden, etc.
WHAT NOT TO SAY TO SUICIDALS
How can you even think of dying?: Suicide is a taboo, granted, but asking this question does not help in any way. To them, it is, “how can I not think of dying?”
Things are not as bad as it looks: Of course it doesn’t, because pain is suffered underneath. We never know a person truly until we know what is inside. Saying this would only mean that you are not focussed on helping them, and it’s salt to the wound because attention is what they seek.
You will go to hell if you commit suicide: Our friend is most likely to have thought of this possibility. May be he believes in hell, maybe he doesn’t. His faith has definitely been shook, and religious pursuits will probably not bring him back.
You have so much to live for: Maybe he doesn’t, and maybe that is why he isn’t afraid to die, to hurt everyone around him. Saying this would only trigger him.
SOMETHING WE CAN DO
Suicide appears anathema in a society seemingly obsessed with religious and moral righteousness. It is a taboo we dare not venture into, something we still cannot talk about openly. This causes the depressed thought to be ensnared inside, with outlets that are often unfavourable.
For many reasons we don’t fully understand, some people reach such depths of despair and pain that they begin to believe that they would be better off dead, Dr John Campos, a psychiatrist is quoted as saying. Talking about suicide openly helps tremendously. We never know of the emotions that have been supressed for a long time, if not their entire lives.
Having suicidal thoughts does not necessarily mean that they are intent to die. The very fact that they are still alive to think those thoughts serves enough evidence that they are in a quandary, wanting to live as much as they want to die. Making sure that the person is comfortable, is very necessary.
I am just conjecturing here but listening attentively is very crucial and important, if not the most crucial when conversing with a suicidal. Letting them pour out their suppressed emotions helps in unimaginable ways.
It should be noted that all suicidal persons do not want to talk to counsellors, also the reason why he is talking to you in the first place. Be trustworthy and ask questions without cornering into anywhere. They inherently speak for themselves. Be very careful in what you say and with the words you use, lest you come off as judging to that person.
Last but not the least, dismissing suicidal feelings with casual reassurances is just about the worst thing you can do. Because that emphasizes the fact that no one understands them or the pain that they’re feeling.
Give them the chance to talk about wanting to die and about wanting to live before you offer them the chance to live.
Albeit September 10 being World Suicide Prevention Day, any other day is just as good a day to render help to the depressed helpless people. So, climb into someone’s skin and walk around, or give a listen to someone, be it any day.