About suicide

What is suicide?

Suicide is intentionally ending one’s own life.

American psychologist, Thomas Joiner came up with a theory known as the interpersonal theory of suicide that states there are three main factors that can cause individuals to consider suicide.

1) A perception they are alone in the world and no one really cares about them.

2) A feeling that they are a burden on others and people would be better off if they were dead.

3) This leads to a fearlessness towards pain and death.

In reality, the exact causes for dying by suicide, are difficult to pin down as they are multifactorial, complex and cannot be attributable to a single cause and can be a combination of many, a few are listed below.

* Terminal illness like cancer

* Chronic pain

* Debt/financial losses

* Unbearable emotional pain

* Death of a loved one

* Romantic break-up

* Exam failure

* Loss of job

* Mental health issues like depression, schizophrenia, anorexia nervosa or borderline personality disorder

* Being lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, intersex, asexual.

* Taking anti-depressants

* Previous suicide attempt

* Family history of suicide

* Access to lethal means

* Alcohol/drug abuse

If a person is feeling suicidal he or she can be treated through therapy or medication if there’s an underlying mental health issue.

If somebody has attempted suicide, they will need emergency care at a hospital, and after that, they will need therapy.

They will need to be followed up on as one-third of those who make a suicide attempt will make another attempt in less than a year and 10 percent of them will die by suicide eventually.

Myth: Individuals who talk about wanting to die by suicide don’t want to do it.

Truth: Many suicide attempters give prior warning of the act. The reason they are talking about it because they are hoping that somebody is listening.

Myth: It is not a good idea to ask somebody if they are feeling suicidal.

Truth: This might get them to open up and make them feel better. It won’t trigger suicide ideation that isn’t present already.

Myth: Somebody who’s attempted suicide won’t attempt it again.

Truth: A history of attempting suicide is a strong indicator of further attempts. It is important to provide psychosocial care and be alert to signs of an attempt.

Myth: Suicide is not preventable.

Truth: Suicide attempts are usually a cry for help and timely listening, responding and referring the individual to get help can prevent suicide.

Myth: Only those with a mental health issue will attempt suicide.

Truth: Not all those who attempt suicide have a prior mental health disorder. Some of them have external triggers.

Myth: Individuals are suicidal have already made up their mind and there’s nothing that can be done to change their mind.

Truth: Suicide ideation is just that: an idea, and just like any thought, it can be defeated. Most individuals want to talk, be heard, felt needed and spoken out of the feeling to die by suicide.

It is important to be aware of the causes mentioned here and also be alert to the warning signs.

1) Talk about suicide: Individuals who are feeling suicidal will talk about dying about suicide, being a burden, how they seek a permanent solution, including talk about why it is the only way out or even celebrate the concept suicide.

2) Change in behaviour and appearance: They can become socially withdrawn, skip work, cut their hair, not be concerned about physical appearance, or appear aloof.

3) Increased drug and/or alcohol use: Substance abuse is a very good sign of a suicide attempt. A high percentage of suicide attempters -- especially men -- are under the influence when they make a suicide attempt.

4) Depression: Low energy, moodiness, loss of appetite, social withdrawal and lack of interest that makeup depressive symptoms are a sign of suicide ideation.

5) Displaying sudden calm: When a person who has been depressed or agitated suddenly becomes calm, it needs to treated with some alarm, because it is possible that the individual had decided to end his life and has given up trying.

6) Weight gain or loss/sleeping too much or too little: Rapid weight gain or loss and insomnia or sleep a lot due to no apparent reason needs to be looked into.

7) Putting affairs in order: Drawing up a will, giving away precious items or saying goodbye to loved ones are all signs.

Suicide is a cry for help. Various studies suggest that those who attempt suicide do not actually want to die. They want somebody to listen, hear them out and show that somebody cares. Studies reveal that more than 90 percent of those who attempt suicide do not die by suicide.

Suicide ideation is such a heightened emotional state that it doesn’t last longer than a few days and it dissipates after. But when somebody is feeling suicidal they need help so that they can tide over what they are strongly feeling at the moment. Intervening and helping them through the feelings of hopelessness, worthlessness, anger, guilt, shame or despair will help the individual through these feelings.

Most of us through some basic suicide prevention training, which globally is referred to as Gatekeeper or Lifekeeper training, can help prevent suicide by listening, responding and referring suicidal individuals for professional help. Providing them with the numbers of suicide crisis helplines and also giving them information how and where they can seek professional help (counsellors, clinical psychologists or psychiatrists) is important.

True, there are cases, where the person hysterical or psychotic and needs professional psychiatric help. In those cases, it is important to stay with them till a family member or friend can take them to the nearest hospital so that they can get the help they need.