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World Suicide Prevention Day: Signs To Watch Out For!

suicide prevention day

World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is observed every year on 10th September with the aim to raise awareness around the globe that suicide can be prevented.

Switched on a TV, the anchor on a News channel commences with the headline “farmers committed suicide” in the Southern part of the country?

Scrolling down the videos on Youtube and came across a viral video of “an engineer committed suicide by jumping from the terrace of a hotel room in the city”.

Turned the newspaper to check for the latest news and on a corner spot a story which states “a 15-year-old committed suicide due to fear of exams”.

These are a few snippets of the numerous cases of suicide that we come across on a day-to-day basis but turn a blind eye to. But no anymore because suicide is the third leading cause of mortality among young adults all over the world[1].

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), in the year 2015, around 800,000 suicides were documented[2]. And for every suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts[1]. Every year around one million people die from suicide. As per the WHO reports, it accounts to one death every 40 seconds and one suicide attempt every 3 seconds across the globe[1]. Overall, suicides account for 1.4% of premature deaths worldwide. Around 84% of global suicides occur in low and middle income countries, of which India and China account for 49% of the total cases[3]. 

India was considered to be the “Suicide Capital of South-East Asia” as it recorded the highest cases of suicides in the year 2012[4]. According to a 2010 study published in the Indian Journal of Psychiatry[5], the suicide rate in India is 10.3 and it has increased by a massive 43% in the past three decades. Moreover, 37.8% of the cases are by those under 30 years of age and around 71% of suicides are by people who are below 44 years[5]. Every year more than a lakh lives are lost due to suicide in India. It is estimated that one in 60 persons are affected by the suicide of a family member or a friend[5]. This is because, suicides and suicide attempts create a ripple effect which strongly impacts the family, friends, collegues, community and society. However, what most people are not aware is that suicide can be prevented.

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On this World Suicide Prevention Day, let’s talk about suicide and what you can do to prevent your near and dear ones by identifying the signs.

Signs and Symptoms To Watch Out For!

According to the National Institute of Mental Health[6], knowing about the warning signs and symptoms for suicide can help you to spot a person who is thinking of suicide and help him/her to get the right assistance thereby helping you to save lives. Signs that someone is thinking of suicide is if he/she is:

– Frequently talking or thinking about death.

– Saying that they want to die or kill themselves.

– Feeling that there is no reason to live or hopelessness.

– Saying that they are a burden to the family and society.

– Thinking that there is no way out for any situation or no solution for a problem.

– Thinking of being trapped in a situation.

– Falling prey to substance abuse or alcohol abuse.

– Devising a plan on how to commit suicide or kill themselves.

– Looking for ways to kill themselves such as searching online, stocking of pills, buying sharp or lethal materials such as poison, guns, etc.

– Talking of living  their life with guilt or shame.

– Being more anxious or getting furious or overreacting to a certain situation.

– Showing severe changes in their eating or sleeping habits.

– Not mingling and staying away from family and friends. 

– Displaying extreme mood swings in a quick span of time (such as suddenly becoming angry when smiling).

– Suffering from unbearable physical and mental pain.

If you spot these warning signs in anyone you know either your friends or family, then get help as early as possible. You can get professional help such as taking the person to a psychiatrist you know about and act as a strong support system to the person. 

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Ask for help and be there for the person in need. If they do not wish to share their thoughts with you or do not want to meet an expert personally, then getting help through helpline numbers can also be an option. Help them connect with a mental health professional you know or are aware of or talk to your family doctor about the right expert to get in touch. Listen to what the person has to say as lending an ear can not only help them share their inner thoughts and feelings but also help them to vent out their problems and seek help. This can help you to know what the person is feeling and thinking so you can provide the right assistance.

Suicidal thoughts and behavior is quite complex. There is no single known cause of it and however, there are several factors which can act as a trigger. These could range from family history of suicide or mental health condition and depression to chronic pain, certain medical conditions such as HIV, family violence, sexual abuse, etc. Suicidal thoughts are a sign of extreme distress and should not be ignored. With the help of right expert guidance, medications, therapy and care, the condition can be improved and suicide attempt can be prevented. Stay strong, seek help!

(The article is reviewed by Dr. Swati Mishra, Medical Editor)

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References:

1. Radhakrishnan R, Andrade C. Suicide: An Indian perspective. Indian J Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;54(4):304-19. 

2. Suicide. Key Facts. The World Health Organization (WHO).

3. Rane A, Nadkarni A. Suicide in India: a systematic review. Shanghai Arch Psychiatry. 2014 Apr;26(2):69-80.

4. Radhakrishnan R, Andrade C. Suicide: An Indian perspective. Indian J Psychiatry. 2012 Oct;54(4):304-19.

5. Vijayakumar L. Indian research on suicide. Indian J Psychiatry. 2010 Jan;52(Suppl 1):S291-6.

6. Suicide prevention. Mental health information. National Institute of mental health.

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