How to rally around and save a person who sees suicide as the only way out

How to rally around and save a person who sees suicide as the only way out

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Puroitree Majumdar, a Clinical Psychologist, shares insights into how to help prevent the tsunami of suicides that we are likely facing. (Ohoto: US-CDC)

Saturday, 10th September is World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) – a special day earmarked since 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO) to help the world avert likely attempts at suicide by individuals.
The theme this year (2022) is “Creating Hope Through Action” … By encouraging understanding, reaching in and sharing experiences, we want to give people the confidence to take action. Preventing suicide requires us to become a beacon of light to those in pain. You can be the light, says the International Association for Suicide Prevention.

World Suicide Day focuses attention on the issue of helping individuals defeat the thought of ending their lives, helping reduce stigma and raising awareness among organisations, government, and the public, giving a singular message that suicide can be prevented.

Ms Puroitree Majumdar, Senior Clinical Psychologist & Clinical Product Development Lead at YourDOST. Ms Majumdar is an M.Phil in Clinical Psychology from the Institute of Mental Health and Hospital, Agra and is registered with the Rehabilitation Council of India. Ms Majumdar specialises in working with individuals with trauma, OCD, ADHD, Schizophrenia and their families, therapeutic modalities such as CBT and Narrative Therapy, Family Therapy, Transactional Analysis, Arts based therapy and mindfulness-based approaches such as Acceptance and Commitment Therapy. She has extensive experience working with parents of young kids, children, working professionals, students etc.

Here’s what Ms Puroitree Majumdar told Times Now on the issue of how all of us can rally around to help any individual in distress before he or she attempts suicide, and how to recognise if someone is in need of help to overcome an obstacle that makes them consider suicide as an option. A suicide victim is constantly sending out signals. We only need to read them right and reach out.

Times Now: In which age group is suicide more prevalent?

Ms Puroitree Majumdar: Suicide was the second leading cause of death among individuals between the ages of 10-14 and 25-34. In a recent Global Suicide Statistics by The International Association for Suicide Prevention half (58 per cent) of all deaths by suicide occur before the age of 50 years old.*

{*1.6 lacs reported suicides in 2021—which is 7.2 per cent above last year’s figure —the National Crime Records Bureau’s (NCRB) 2022.)}

Times Now: What are the major factors which drive a person to extreme steps and what is the right time to intervene?

Ms Puroitree Majumdar: Several factors can contribute to an individual concluding wrongly that suicide is the easier way out. They can be a history of suicide attempts, depression, other mental disorders, or substance use disorder, chronic pain, family history of a mental disorder or substance use, family history of suicide, exposure to family violence, including physical or sexual abuse, exposure, either directly or indirectly, to others’ suicidal behaviour, such as that of family members, peers, or celebrities are some of the factors. Anytime you see red flags such as talking about hurting themselves, jokes about suicide or death, persistent sadness, withdrawing from people and situations or expressing feelings of helplessness and hopelessness are all times when you should talk to someone. Do not promise that you will keep their suicidal thoughts a secret, involve a trusted friend, family member, or other trusted adult and shift their focus to how there is help available and it is perfectly alright to seek it.

Times Now: Is addressing mental health more important now, given the number of increases in suicide cases?

Ms Puroitree Majumdar: Yes, it is crucial in many aspects as suicide is an essential issue in the Indian context. More than one lakh (a hundred thousand) lives are lost annually to suicide in our country. In the last two decades, the suicide rate has increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000 – which is about 80 per cent of all suicides that occur in low and middle-income countries

Times Now: Have the number of suicides increased since the COVID pandemic began?

Ms Puroitree Majumdar: Yes, it has. Right at the onset of the pandemic, several mental health experts warned the world to prepare for a concurrent increase in rates of suicide using phrases such as the likelihood of “a tsunami of suicides” staring at mankind. Suicide rates in India increased during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic, and although the increase in suicide rates, especially among males, predates the pandemic, the increase in suicide rates was highest in 2020, compared to increases in previous years.

Times Now: What are the signs in a person that should tell a parent, relations, friends, colleagues etc that he or she could be on the verge of suicide?

Ms Puroitree Majumdar: Family and friends are often the first to recognise the warning signs of suicide, and they can take the first step toward helping a loved one find mental health treatment. Some of the signs include talking about wanting to die or wanting to kill themselves. Talking about feeling empty or hopeless or having no reason to live. Talking about feeling trapped or feeling that there are no solutions. Taking great risks that could lead to death, such as driving extremely fast. Talking or thinking about death often Other serious warning signs that someone may be at risk for attempting suicide include displaying extreme mood swings, suddenly changing from very sad to very calm or happy.

Puroitree Majumdar, a Clinical Psychologist, shares insights into how to help prevent the tsunami of suicides that we are likely facing.

Times Now: What can one do to make a reluctant person seek help from a counsellor and/or a psychiatrist?

Ms Puroitree Majumdar: Normalise activities such as seeking professional help (like counselling from a clinical psychologist or a psychiatrist) or going to therapy, just as you would see a doctor for physical health issues. Tell them about confidentiality and ethical treatment. Encouraging them to seek help and allowing them the time to think it through is an active approach. Additionally, it helps to support them in taking the first step, such as who to meet, accompanying them for their session or discussing what they need to talk about in the first meeting.

Times Now: How can one secure a person physically if they seem hell-bent on committing an act of suicide?

Ms Puroitree Majumdar: It is essential that when someone shares they have a plan to hurt themselves, you remove any dangers from their surroundings, such as removing sharp objects, medications etc. Additionally, they may benefit from having a buddy or a trusted family member who stays with them and ensures their safety and there is a crisis plan in place, ie, whom to reach out to if they are having persistent thoughts about suicide. They need to seek psychiatric help immediately.

Times Now: Should there be more helpline numbers to reach out to the youngsters to battle depression which ultimately leads to suicide?

Ms Puroitree Majumdar: More support and awareness of the same are needed, so additional helplines would be a boon. But it is also essential to normalise seeking help and that young people know when to reach out and how.

Times Now: Even if one is into therapy with a good counsellor, when can one know that not just counselling, but a session with a psychiatrist is required?

Ms Puroitree Majumdar: If there are persistent suicidal thoughts or a plan, then it is essential to connect with a psychiatrist. It is never a bad idea to meet with a psychiatrist, think of it as a mental wellness check-up. A good psychiatrist will guide you well and if nothing is the matter, will send you home with some basic guidance.

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