World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) is an awareness day observed on 10 September every year, in order to provide worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides, with various activities around the world since 2003. The statistics related to suicide is very alarming. Roughly suicide causes 1 death in every 40 seconds worldwide!
Nepal ranks 17th for male suicide and 3rd for female suicide worldwide according to WHO. Sadly, due to the pandemic worldwide, suicide rates are increasing steadily. According to Nepal police, a total of 2218 people committed suicide during lockdown, which is a greater number of deaths than death by Corona virus. Out of all suicides 90 percent of suicide is related to mental health illness according to data from Baston Children’s Hospital.
We need mental health awareness more than ever because suicide is preventable! As a community, as a nation, there are a few steps we must collectively take to prevent this. The first step would be awareness about mental health amongst the people who are responsible for working with large groups. Every teacher that has access to children, every health worker, members of media, organization heads, first responders during an incident, police must be trained to identify mental health illness.
The stigma attached to mental illness should be fought and normalization of mental illness as equal to physical illness must be done. The whole stigma that deems mentally ill people as weak, incapable, dangerous or different than others must be proved wrong. The vast examples of people suffering from mental illness succeeding professionally and leading a happy life must be shared and written about more than stories of loss.
As individuals, we must be ready to ask uncomfortable questions to someone suffering from mental illness. We must be ready to move beyond casual “Are you okay?” and lend our ear if someone wants to talk about their issues. By just listening to them, making them know and feel that you care can bring a lot of difference .While listening ,do not give advice about how to deal with it, do not diagnose them just listen to them ,empathize ,verbalize and acknowledge that they are going through a hard time.
It is a tough task to connect with someone with mental illness as many may refuse to seek help ,many will be reluctant to share, many will act differently than we want and sometimes even ignore us .But we must learn to not take it personally .Ostracizing someone because they are difficult to deal it because of an illness is unfair .The key here is patience .We must be constantly in touch in them ,be there for them and encourage them to seek specialized mental health care for them. But throughout the process, if you yourself find it difficult to handle emotionally, involve someone else.
As somebody who has gone through loss of someone to suicide there are few things I would like to share out of my experience .Speculation related to the cause of death, victim shaming calling them weak because they took their life ,gossiping about death ,pointing fingers at their family members calling them names is not what the family needs while dealing with grief .Do not bring “what if’s ”,you should have done this ,why did you do this in conversation cause I can guarantee you they are already wrestling with that in their mind. As losses like this has a huge impact what we can do is be supportive, watch out if they show any signs of illness themselves and help them transition of life after loss.
I dedicate this article to every family, friend that had to go through the devastating loss of someone to suicide. I want to tell you all that you are not alone in this and if you need specialized help please seek it!
Pragya is a Counseling Psychology student at Trubhuwan university. She is also president and founding member of Aadhar group which works for mental health She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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