World Suicide Prevention Day: Avoid stigmatising, important to share survival stories, says Nimhans director


It is important for people to extend support to those who are in distress and stop discriminating against patients and families who have experienced suicide as a personal tragedy, said Dr Pratima Murthy, director of National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences (Nimhans) on Friday. She was speaking in a virtual address organised by the institute in connection with World Suicide Prevention Day, which is observed every year on September 10.

“Suicide has multiple determinants and effects, and it severely impacts the lives of people. Over the past five decades, the number of suicides has steadily increased in India. According to NCRB (National Crime Records Bureau) reports, more than one lakh precious lives are lost to suicide each year in India,” she said.

“In our nation now, suicide is the leading cause of death among people between the ages of 15 and 39. We can play a significant role by preventing suicide and we can do that by supporting those who are experiencing any kind of crisis. We need to avoid stigmatising suicide. We need to encourage people to seek help. We should not isolate or discriminate against patients or families who have experienced suicide as a personal tragedy,” Dr Murthy said, adding that it is important to share personal stories of hope, survival and recovery.

“At NIMHANS we offer various services and programmes at the individual, community and the national level to raise awareness on suicide prevention. We also contribute to strengthening evidence-based research studies in the area of suicide prevention. The Tele-Manas counselling services will begin this year. People should know that there are ways of overcoming any crisis in life like social, emotional and economical, and we all need to work together as a society to prevent suicides in the society. And I think we, as a society, we all need to come together to address not just how to alleviate distress, but to reduce avenues for such kind of desperate acts, as well as restore optimism,” she said.

Titli Sarkar, clinical psychologist at online counselling and emotional support platform YourDOST, told The Indian Express that the survivors of suicide loss are at higher risk for developing psychiatric conditions like major depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and suicidal behaviours, besides a prolonged form of grief called complicated grief. “Facing the loss of a loved one is always difficult, but losing someone to suicide can add another level of pain to your grief. The shock following a suicide can seem very distressing and overwhelming,” she said.

“The most difficult part comes where you may feel guilty, wishing you had done more to prevent their suicide, feel upset at yourself for having missed any clues to their intentions, or even angry at your loved one for leaving you alone. Many people grieving a suicide start to question the relationship they shared with the person, wondering why it was not enough to keep them alive and what they could have done differently,” Sarkar pointed out.

Dr Venkatesh Babu, consultant- psychiatrist at Fortis Hospitals, Bengaluru, said suicide should be seen and understood as a medical, psychological and social construct. “It is important to understand that a person tries to indulge in suicidal behaviour as a method of relieving from psychological distress they are experiencing and intend to end the pain, not life itself,” he explained.

“The most crucial link is providing social support in the form of a safety net where anyone can be prone to suicide. Allowing your significant and loved ones to express their distress and not judging/critically evaluating them would lead to trust and collective problem solving,” Dr Babu added.

 





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