Suicide Prevention: Warning Signs That Can Flag Suicide Risks, Experts Explains Preventive Measures

According to the World Health Organization (IANS), suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15-29 years old, and for every death by suicide, there are many more attempts. Most signals about the victim’s mental condition get ignored leading to the act, experts said.

“What we may perceive as an impulse, is in reality coming from a place of intense despair, negative emotions, helplessness and hopelessness as a consequence of failing to address mental health conditions regardless of age, gender, socio-economic background or demographic variables,” Dr Mimansa Singh Tanwar, Clinical Psychologist at Fortis National Mental Health Programme, told IANS.

“For a young person, an overwhelming, immediate stress or prolonged stress that has been building up over a period of time may trigger suicidal intent,” Tanwar added.

So what are the signs that can flag suicide risks?

According to Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Max Hospital, Saket, the typical symptoms include sustained sadness, voicing ideas of hopelessness, feelings of failure, helplessness, worthlessness, losing interest in hobbies and friends, socially withdrawn, changes in behaviour, significant changes in sleep wake cycle, disturbed appetite, and self neglect.

“Staying isolated, talking about meaninglessness and purposelessness in life, sudden fascination with death and related content, giving away their personal belongings or possessions and increased indulgence in risk-taking behaviours like substance abuse, reckless driving or other life-threatening things could also be some signals,” said Tanwar.

If you come across such people, do not isolate them, rather try to maintain healthy communication, said Malhotra. 

Try to engage in empathic listening to his/her concerns, instil hope and help him/her in exploring positive options, give some time to make him/her feel important and precious, encourage the person to seek timely professional psychiatric intervention; provide needful social support and a healthy environment, the expert said. 

Dr Jaya Sukul, Clinical Psychologist at Marengo Asia Hospitals, Faridabad, said that to prevent a suicide, parents and teachers must change their mindset with intentional or unintentional pressure. 

They should create a safe space for children to express their concerns, not invalidate any anxieties or nervousness, give adequate breaks, focus on things other than academic performance and not treat academics as life and death situation.

“We must understand that suicides are preventable. Parents and schools play a significant role in preventing suicides by recognising the warning signs.” the experts said.

Also, when identifying the signs, support should be provided in a calm, sensitive and non-judgmental way, they added. 

“It is important to encourage them to talk and provide them the safe space to express themselves, without invalidating their feelings. Reaching out to a mental health expert for timely intervention can help them instil hope, re-evaluate their options and learn adaptive mechanisms to cope with their stressors,” Tanwar said.

The expert also called for schools to include a mental health curriculum to create a safe and sensitive environment where the young individuals feel encouraged to talk about mental health related challenges, seek help, break the stigma around it and build a culture of resilience and well-being. 

“Crisis intervention and gatekeeper’s training for teachers and staff as timely response and intervention would certainly strengthen prevention strategies. For the society at large, each and every one of us can make a difference by learning and providing the psychological first-aid skills by looking for the warning signs, listening empathetically with compassion and linking them to the right support system for timely intervention that would go a long way in saving each valuable life,” Tanwar said.

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