The stigma associated with mental health tends to become a major obstacle in the way of identification and management of mental illnesses, more so in the case of suicide prevention. Given the extent of stigmatisation of mental health in our country, it is common for the suicidal individual to be blamed for a character weakness. However, we need to help create an awareness and recognition of the fact that suicidal tendencies are more likely to be explained by an untreated illness, which could be prevented with timely identification as well as intervention.
Another major obstacle that often blocks help seeking behaviour comprises worries about being misjudged, not being listened to or fearing betrayal, which further leads to a hesitation in talking about it. The recent initiative in 2017 which decriminalised suicide, was a much-appreciable act which encourages a sensitised approach to mental illnesses.
It becomes important to ensure we clarify common myths and misconceptions associated with suicide, and at the same time also think about the need of the hour to prevent such incidents in the future. Instead of overlooking these signs as attention seeking tactics, or not taking them seriously, it is important to be vigilant to these signs, and to know how to respond to them.
If you suspect a person of considering suicide, you should not hesitate to talk about it. It is important for us to realise that suicide is preventable. Therefore, creating an awareness and educating people about the signs that could be indicative of some distress being experienced by the individuals who might be contemplating suicide is imperative.
An adequate peer support and social network system, family support, school as well as community connectedness could serve as a major factor in lessening the risk of suicides. It is necessary to spread awareness about accessibility as well as referrals to appropriate professional help of counsellors and psychiatrists.
Tool kits for skill building are a must especially for school children and teenagers. Efforts should be made to focus on building trust and rapport with them, so as to enable an atmosphere of open communication, encouraging the reporting and sharing of their innermost feelings easily. Parent and community awareness programmes need to be created to encourage parental notification and involvement. Forming a multi-component model for awareness building, preventive strategies as well as training for adequate intervention-based approaches for parents, teachers, as well as students is essential.
However, what is important to recognise is that suicide prevention is a collective responsibility which requires creating awareness and sensitisation towards the reporting of mental health, while also making mental health services accessible and available to all.
One of the most beneficial means of achieving this dream can be through the provision of national helplines, which ensures that a mental health professional is available and accessible to all, even at moments of crises, in order to provide a listening and supportive ear, and be able to instill a sense of hope in the despairing individual, and help the individual restrain acting on an impulse, and instead seek out more adaptive coping mechanisms.
Further, there is a dire need for the establishment of a student assistance/ helpline programme to identify risk factors for suicide, and the implementation of a prevention policy. to promote adolescents’ resilience and healthy socio-emotional development.