Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life. The World Health Organisation has stated that an estimated 703,000 persons a year take their lives around the world. It further stated that for every suicide, there are likely 20 other people making a suicide attempt and many more have serious thoughts about suicide. Suicide is a serious public health problem and can have profound and long-lasting effects on individuals, families and communities. World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) which was established in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention in conjunction with the World Health Organisation (WHO) is observed yearly on the 10th of September. The triennial theme from 2021 to 2023 is Creating Hope through Action. By creating awareness, reducing stigma around suicide and encouraging well-informed action, we can reduce instances of suicide worldwide. It is a reminder that there is alternative to suicide and should inspire confidence and light in all of us.
Researchers have identified three main factors that appear to increase the risk of suicide: 1. Psychological factors – depression, anxiety, drug and alcohol use, previous suicide attempt and other comorbid psychiatric disorders. 2. Stressful life events like family problems, peer conflicts, job loss, death of a loved one, end of or strained relationship, health problems, academic failure among others and 3. Personality traits– some personality traits such as neuroticism, pessimism, perfectionism, low self-esteem, self-criticism, have been identified as predisposing factors for suicidal behaviours. Suicide is however preventable and everyone can play a role in preventing it by learning a few things about suicide and being committed to help prevent it.
1.Suicidal ideation – this is a common term for thoughts about suicide. If you find yourself thinking about hopelessness and ending your own life, please talk to someone about it. 2.Suicidal behaviour – Thoughts are usually only known to the person thinking but can become visible to others when they become expressed in suicidal behaviour which include words and actions that relate to suicide e.g. expressing hopelessness and the wish to die or “end it all”, reckless driving, increase in drug intake or stockpiling drugs, mood swings, moodiness, severe sadness, unexpected rage, sudden calmness and withdrawal, changes in personality or appearance.
How you can help
- Start a dialogue with the person. Ask direct and open ended questions, do not be afraid of, or shy away from, mentioning the word suicide or death. Ask questions that will elicit discussion from the person. Ask what the person plans to do.
- Listen – When people are in crises, having someone listen to them is important, take every word spoken seriously. 75% of people who commit suicide give a warning of their intention to a friend or family member.
- DO NOT: ( i) be judgemental or confrontational e.g. it is a sin to kill yourself, don’t you know your family will suffer if you kill yourself? They already know.
(ii) be sworn to secrecy i.e. don’t agree with the person that you will not tell anybody. (iii) trivialise the persons answers – take every word seriously, don’t take anything said as a joke. (iii) debate or argue morality.
- Reassurethe person that you care and that he/she is not alone. Explain that no situation is permanent – suicidal thoughts, depression, anxiety, financial crises, can be overcome but suicide is permanent
- Discuss alternativesto suicide, offer hope, solution to the problem, call, reach out to persons who can help. Help the person stay safe e.g. spend the night with relatives or a friend rather than being alone. You may need to arrange for hospitalisation depending on the severity of the warning signs.
- Encouragethe person to see a mental health practitioner e.g. a counsellor. You can offer to go along with the person to the counsellor.
We can all play a role in supporting those experiencing suicidal crisis or those bereaved by suicide.
FROM THE STUDENTS’ GUIDANCE AND COUNSELLING CENTRE, UNIVERSITY OF BENIN, BENIN CITY