As per the latest data on suicide released by the World Health Organization, India had the highest suicide rate in Southeast Asia in the year 2016. Our nation also has the sixth-highest female suicide death rate in the world. It should be noted that suicide is one of the leading causes of death which can be prevented with the help of guidance and timely intervention. These figures are a grim reminder of the fact that we need to change the way we approach suicides and the conversations around them.
Conversations can be life-saving…
According to a poll conducted by Times of India, more than 50 per cent of the respondents battled suicidal thoughts occasionally. So why aren’t we talking about it enough? Maybe because initiating a conversation about suicidal thoughts and suicide ideation is not exactly comfortable, especially in a society which demonises mental health conditions and links cowardice with the act of taking one’s own life. These labels and stigmas can push the person fighting suicidal thoughts and mental illness further into a dark hole, cementing the notion of hopelessness in his head.
Furthermore, we have all sort of notions running in our heads. The most dangerous of them all is that the people who talk about taking their lives, won’t actually go through it. The treatment of suicide in India borders on awkwardness and embarrassment, a lethal combination that results in ignorance. People refuse to acknowledge it as a real problem at all and is often portrayed as smoke and mirrors. We believe that talking to our friends and family members who seem suicidal will further push them to the edge– a bizarre belief which cannot be further away from the truth.
These notions are so deep rooted in our psyche that medical agencies across the world, including the WHO have had to dispel these rumours. The World Health Organization states, “Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are contemplating suicide do not know who to speak to. Rather than encouraging suicidal behaviour, talking openly can give individual other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide.”
As per the poll, more than 80 per cent of the respondents were not aware of any helpline number which will provide them timely intervention and pause their train of suicidal thoughts. This is a dangerously high number given that a total of 1,39,123 suicides were reported in India in the year 2019. These deaths could have been prevented had they been given timely help or had someone to talk to and understand their silent cry of help.
So, the next time your friend casually tells you that he sees no point in living or going on with life, don’t brush it away. STAY. Fight the urge to switch the topic or rationalise their behaviour. Let the awkward silence linger on, but stay there to ask those difficult questions. Suicide prevention is not easy, but staying mum can cost you life. A life of someone you know, someone close to you or even someone you love.
Suicide prevention helpline numbers:
Sumaitri- 011-23389090, Sanjivini- 011-24311918, 011- 40769002, 011-41092787, AASRA -91-9820466726
iCall- +91 22 2552111, +91 9152987821, Vandrevala Foundation- +91 730 459 9839