Suicide rates are increasing drastically all over the world. Suicide accounts for over 8 00 000 deaths per year worldwide. 40% of these occur in low and middle income countries in Asia. According to a World health Organization report on suicide in 2014, Sri Lanka was ranked as having the 4th highest suicide rate in the world. Considering its relative size and impact on the world, to have such a high rate of suicide, wider social and psychological issues must be addressed.
In 2010, Fernando et al conducted a study about suicide rates in Sri Lanka. They studied 151 deaths by suicide as determined by the Colombo coroner’s court in 2006. Out of 151 deaths, 62% were men and 38% were women. The same was reflected in other surveys as well. That same year 3558 men (79%) and 946 women (21%) committed suicide in Sri Lanka.
People who kill themselves don’t really want to die, they just want to stop hurting. In particular, the reasons as to why people commit suicide is quite subject and varies great in intensity. The underlying reason in all such instances is unbearable pain, self-loathing and hopelessness that cripples people from understanding that a situation may change.
According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) 50-70% of individuals who attempt suicide try to talk to someone about the suicidal thoughts, feelings and plans. This is their plea for help. Educate yourself on the warning signs of suicide and prepare yourself to help anyone who may be suicidal.
Some suicide warning signs:
- Talking about suicide- Any talk about suicide, dying, or self-harm, such as “I wish I hadn’t been born,” “If I see you again…” and “I’d be better off dead.”
- Seeking out lethal means- Seeking access to guns, pills, knives, or other objects that could be used in a suicide attempt.
- Preoccupation with death- Unusual focus on death, dying and violence. Writing stories or poems on death.
- No hope for the future- Feelings of hopelessness, helplessness (“There is no way out”) Belief that things will never get better or change.
- Self-loathing- Feelings of worthlessness, guilt, shame, and feeling like a burden. (“Everybody will be better off without me”)
- Saying goodbye- Making unusual calls and visits to family and friends. Saying goodbye like they’ll never see them again.
- Self-destructive behavior- Cutting, increased alcohol or drug abuse, reckless driving, unsafe sex. Taking unnecessary risks, as if they have a ‘death wish’.
If you have noticed any warning signs of suicide the first set is to speak up if you are worried. Talking to someone who is suicidal can be extremely difficult. Although you are unsure, the best thing is to ask. You can’t make a person suicidal by showing them that you care.
Dos and don’ts when talking to someone who is suicidal:
- Be yourself. Let the person know you care, that he/she is not alone. The right words are often unimportant. If you are concerned, your voice and manner will show it.
- Listen. Let the suicidal person unload despair, ventilate anger. No matter how negative the conversation seems, the fact that it exists is a positive sign.
- Be sympathetic, non-judgmental, patient, calm, accepting. Your friend or family member is doing the right thing by talking about his/her feelings.
- Offer hope. Reassure the person that help is available and that the suicidal feelings are temporary. Let the person know that his or her life is important to you.
- If the person says things like, “I’m so depressed, I can’t go on,” ask the question: “Are you having thoughts of suicide?” You are not putting ideas in their head, you are showing that you are concerned, that you take them seriously, and that it’s OK for them to share their pain with you.
- Argue with the suicidal person. Avoid saying things like: “You have so much to live for,” “Your suicide will hurt your family,” or “Look on the bright side.”
- Act shocked, lecture on the value of life, or say that suicide is wrong.
- Promise confidentiality. Refuse to be sworn to secrecy. A life is at stake and you may need to speak to a mental health professional in order to keep the suicidal person safe. If you promise to keep your discussions secret, you may have to break your word.
- Offer ways to fix their problems, or give advice, or make them feel like they have to justify their suicidal feelings. It is not about how bad the problem is, but how badly it’s hurting your friend or loved one.
- Blame yourself. You can’t “fix” someone’s depression. Your loved one’s happiness, or lack thereof, is not your responsibility.
Give people hope- a sufficient reason to live.
Hope is a necessity for normal life and the major weapon against the suicide impulse.
—Karl A. Menninger