Agencies urge society to support, not stigmatise, people who have attempted suicide

While 8,490 suicides were reported from Kerala in 2012, the number of attempted suicides could be six to seven times higher. Persons who have attempted suicide often live with the stigma, with no support from the State to rehabilitate them.

On September 10, observed as Suicide Prevention Day, agencies working for suicide prevention have urged society to support this segment of people.

It is important to support them because attempted suicide is a major risk factor in suicide cases, says psychiatrist C. J. John. A lot of money and time is spent to save the life, but not the mind, he adds. Considering its importance as a major public health and social issue, the government has to step in to evolve a support system.

Doctors who treat the patient at the first level need to be made aware of a procedure that involves counselling and rehabilitation, says Dr. John. The stigma of ‘failure’ or ‘bad deed’ should be turned around and, with enhanced coping mechanism, used as a stepping stone to a better future, he adds.

Educating families

Mostly, the family of the person who attempted suicide is totally unaware of the emotional trauma the person is going through. Most cases involving teenagers are a complete surprise for the parents.

It is also necessary to educate the family as emotional support is of utmost importance in suicide prevention.

Maithri, a suicide prevention centre in Kochi, had conducted a self-help group session for members of six families bereaved by suicide last year. The emotionally charged session was an eye-opener for the families, according to a Maithri office bearer.

It also resulted in the launch of Sasneham, a programme wherein Maithri sends a letter of willingness to provide emotional support to families bereaved by suicide or accidental death. The list of families is prepared after tracking newspaper reports.

Chaitram, a suicide prevention centre run by the social service wing of Ernakulam Karayogam, is regularly involved in health programmes in schools where they found many children affected by family problems. Alcoholism and poverty at home affect the mental health of students and most of them were found to have no aim in life, says Dr. Vijayalakshmi, who is associated with the programme.

Counselling and follow-up sessions have been of help in many cases where emotionally depraved and depressed students managed to show some sense of direction in their life.

Mostly, what persons who attempt suicide need is only a listening ear.

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