By Tasnim Rahman Nira

“People who commit suicide are cowards”

“People who die by suicide are selfish and take the easy way out”

These are the common but unreasonable beliefs that our society holds for suicide, and in some respects, promotes. So what necessitates us to look into a behavior our society labels as “cowardly” and “selfish”? Why is understanding suicide important? It is because while you are reading this article, according to WHO( World Health Organization), in some parts of the world, suicide is taking at least one life every 40 seconds. Which is 800 000 people every year. Being a topic less talked about, overmuch stigmatized and criminalized in the country, suicide has drawn much attention this year on the occasion of making it the lead concern of World Mental Health Day by the World Health Organization.

So, how much of this act is cowardly and selfish and not out of extreme hopelessness, we will know once we take a better look at a suicidal mind.

Knowing the person who wants to die
Research studies have shown that an unrealistic sense of hopelessness is one of the crucial factors a suicidal mind fosters. An actively suicidal person has thoughts dominated by pervasive, pessimistic vision. As their thoughts are clouded by irrationality, illogic, and distortion, they can not point out any memories of joy and satisfaction of the past. They erroneously consider themselves as forever miserable. Thus the decision of committing suicide stems from the thought that their mood will not ever improve. So, their only escape from the unbearable and unending sufferings becomes suicide.

Stigma galvanizing suicide
When stigma exists in a society, it bars every possibility to solve a problem. People are restrained to share anything because of this prevailing stigma. Labeling suicide as an act out of cowardice or selfishness or any other name-callings just makes the scenario worse, making the person feel weaker who already considers himself hopeless. When a person with suicidal wish can not reach out to people for sharing, it fuels his sufferings and hopelessness. There are some misbeliefs denoted by WHO that belie the reality of suicide –

Once someone is suicidal, he or she will always remain suicidal.

Fact: Suicidal thoughts are not permanent and can be treated to go on to live a long life.

Talking about suicide is a bad idea and can be interpreted as encouragement.

Fact: Talking openly can give an individual an option or the time to rethink his or her decision.

Only people with mental disorders are suicidal.

Fact: Suicidal behavior indicates deep unhappiness but not necessarily mental disorders.

Suicides happen suddenly without warning.

Fact: The majority of suicides have been preceded by warning signs, whether verbal or behavioral.

People who talk about suicide do not mean to do it.

Fact: People who talk about suicide may be reaching out for help or support.

Someone who is suicidal is determined to die.

Fact: Access to emotional support at the right time can prevent suicide and the person would like to live on.

An alarm for adolescents and youth
We saw the growing rate of suicide among schools to university students in recent years. Common causes exhorting suicide have been: anxiety and depression, significant academic pressure, poor family functioning, trauma, and societal pressure. The global scenario shares the same concern. According to WHO, suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year-olds. Hence comes the necessity of child emotional hygiene which may lead to sound mental health throughout their lives.

One hindrance is when parents do not want to acknowledge the fact that suicide can be relevant to their children, when, in reality, it is relevant to any individual of any family at any time. Once they acknowledge it, their first step is to talk to the children about suicide and open the first door of communication. When you are open to this issue, your children learn that it is not something they should keep secret and eventually they can bring up the topic in the future and reach out to you for help.

Educational institutions are no less important than the home in promoting mental health well-being. No matter how good emotional regulation a child learns at home, if the institution, where he/she spends one-third of a day, lacks cooperation, no way we can expect progress in this field of mental health. Though some developments have been noticed in the national policy, yet we are struggling to implement them efficaciously.

What we can do as individuals
A global issue as extensive as suicide may seem insoluble, but its prevention can be possible on an individual level. There is a misconception that only a mental health professional can help a suicidal person, where for a person who is at a life risk, we can not wait for a professional to intervene. Hence, it is a great relief that anyone can provide the first aid to suicide.

Some suicide prevention helplines: Kaan Pete Roi, Mind Tale.

Empathy is at the core of helping a person with suicidal wishes. When you presume someone is considering suicide or notice any warning signs, the first thing to do is starting a conversation and letting the person know that you care for him. There is no alternative to asking a person directly whether he/she is thinking about suicide. A person who has decided to give up on his life and thus is already vulnerable requires that the emotional-support giver be nonjudgemental and sensible toward him. Sometimes distraction helps(such as going out for coffee or having a stroll) as the urge to die attenuates momentarily, but it is not a permanent solution to suicidal thoughts as they might recur. One cardinal point to bear in mind during this time is that there should be no confidentiality when safety concern is emergency. So, in an inauspicious situation, the support giver must ask for help whether to his/her parents or to a professional.

Looking at the big picture, we may feel dismal, as the daunting statistical figures are getting even more horrible with each passing year. But the collective effort of individuals can play a big part in suicide prevention. Our own part of communicating with others in a proper way, practicing emotional hygiene, overcoming the stigma through awareness can be the impetus to not only suicide prevention but also to overall mental well-being.

The writer is doing her master’s in psychology at the University Of Dhaka and working as a program manager at Identity Inclusion, a project that works to break mental health stigma and promotes social inclusion of people with psycho-social disability.