Suicides are rarely impulsive acts. Learn to identify the signals and help save a life.
Karthik* was a fresher in his first year Intermediate at a reputed college. From day one he was ragged by his seniors and classmates for his puppy fat and immature looks. To add to it his mother often nagged him about not exercising and ignoring his academics. She did not know that each day at his new college was agonising. Finally, a distraught Karthik consumed rat poison hoping to do away with himself. Instead he found himself in hospital having narrowly escaped death. His mother was devastated, his friends shocked and his college guilty of not having checked the ragging in time.
Who's to blame
How many such people do we read about and how few have been lucky to survive? Who was responsible for driving him to suicide? — His mother who regrets not making time to look into her son's feelings? His friends who are ashamed that they did not intervene? His college whose prime concern is its reputation? And if Karthik does not value his own life what are the chances that he will not opt for this step once again?
During Suicide Prevention Day (September 12) “The best way to deal with Teenage Suicide is to prevent it,” says Dr. Mahesh Joshi, Head Emergency Medicine, Apollo Hospital, Hyderabad. “Ten years ago teenage suicide was a rarity but now it happens every other day and is brought about by drug abuse, alcohol, overdose of medication etc.” This growing problem across India is attributed to several factors like increased freedom within nuclear families increased freedom, educational stress, intensive competition, shift in value systems and peer pressure.
“Suicide is the punctuation mark at the end of a process. Often the individual does not want to end his life but wants to put an end to an intense pain that he is experiencing. Managements of educational institutions must take a leading role in empowering their faculty, students and staff in identifying the early signs of suicide. Counselling should be integrated into schools and colleges with full time counsellors available on campus. Teachers too must encourage openness, avoid favouritism and labelling of children,” says Dr. Lata Subramanyam, HOD, Psychology, St Ann's College, Hyderabad.
Confluence of emotions
Unlike popular belief, suicide is not an impulsive act. It is usually progressive, preceded by prolonged feelings of anxiety, depression, guilt, worthlessness and helplessness. Most of those who contemplate suicide are undecided about the act itself. They may consciously or unconsciously send out signals that something is wrong. Suicides in reputed professional colleges have become common place.
A ‘cluster suicide' or ‘copy cat' suicide is common on campus where students blindly follow a close friend or a role model. Politically influenced suicides are committed by those who believe that by committing suicide they become martyrs for a worthy cause. Or sometimes use the political situation as an excuse when already dejected with life.
“In my opinion a certain amount of pressure is required for any achievement but teenagers need to understand that too much pain leads to no gain. Children need to be balanced with both parents and society being involved in their lives,” says Dr Savita Date Menon, Consultant Psychologist, Apollo Wellness.
Students themselves can do quite a bit to avoid getting into a vicious cycle of hopelessness.
Physical activity is key as an energetic sport helps release ‘endorphins' responsible for the feeling of happiness. Taking up hobbies is also a good way to engage oneself. Keeping positive company and feeling free to bring friends home is a healthy precedent. Having good role models who uphold values can be encouraging. Working on one's self esteem is important. But of all the solutions nothing can replace strong family bonds where communication is open and free, being able to express oneself to parents and share problems with siblings can be the ultimate support network.
“If a teenager feels depressed very often he/she should seek profession help, talk to the counsellor on campus or at least to a friend,” says Havovi Patel, Founder Member, SEVA, a free and confidential counselling centre. Alternatively they can join an e-support group like www.support4grief.in or call a phone-in counsellor. When problems are shared with a patient listener they often seem less of a burden, especially intentions of suicide are drastically reduced.
This year's theme for World Suicide Prevention Week was “Families, Community Systems and Suicide” and focused on raising awareness that suicide is a major preventable cause of premature death on a global level. If only we are sensitive to the common signs, many a teenager can be saved.
Most suicidal people can spring back to active life if they have someone to spend time with them, listen non-judgmentally, take their distress seriously and assure them that life is hard but also has a lot to offer. It's your life; only you can make the most of it!
Signs of chronic depression
Repeated statements indicating defeat: “Life sucks”; “Nothing's worth it anymore”; “I can't handle it”
Withdrawing from social interaction
Change in eating and sleeping patterns
Casual queries about weapons/medications
A traumatic experience or loss of a loved one
Sudden religiosity or the sudden withdrawal from it
Seemingly reckless behaviour
Help direct such people to formal or informal sources of support like family, friends or counselling centres.
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Lifeline Foundation: 2463 7401/7432/ 2474 5886