Suicide Prevention – What you can do

With Sushant Singh Rajput’s untimely death by suicide, social media is bursting with advise and status updates offering help. While everyone is well meaning and wants to help, not everyone is trained in suicide prevention and may end up causing harm rather than helping.

My dear friend, Vichitra Dargan, is a brilliant psychologist who has worked with armed forces personnel and several other people on various mental health issues and specifically on preventing suicides. She posted this on her FB wall today. I am sharing it here with her permission and also following her request to use social media for spreading awareness –

Post from Vichitra –

For the past couple of days, social media is abuzz with the suicide of a young and  talented  actor. As someone who has trained four batches of mentors to manage depression and prevent suicides  from  within the lay population of Indian Air Force personnel and their families for a week each, here is my take – I do not believe you can really help by the status updates you are posting. While it may demonstrate that you are a sensitive and compassionate individual who can empathize with the pain and problems of others, it does precious little at the ground level. 

So, what can you do /not do to actually help? Before I list out what you need to follow as commandments to actually prevent suicides, I implore you to stop judging: The actor who lost his life, although admired by many, is not known to most of us personally. We cannot understand his life, his pain, his struggles and his challenges. Stop your conjectures. Please don’t attack his dignity and comment on his mental health. We do not know about it and we should refrain from commenting on what we don’t know. We also do not have the right to judge others, whom some of us hold guilty for abetment. If they are guilty, then may law take its own course and give them what they deserve. As long as you are judging anyone, you are a part of the problem and not the solution.

To help those around you who are battling depression or contemplating suicide, here are the ten commandments –

1. Accept and acknowledge that those who have “mental health issues” are not different from us. Just as everyone can have cold, cough and fever at some point in time, we can all have some negative emotions which bother us. Presently, I have 3 psychologists coming to me for counseling and all of them are good in their profession. Just as a doctor can have a physical ailment and a gadget in an engineer’s house can misfire, we and our families can also have mental health problems. No one is immune. 

2. Depression manifests itself in many different and sometimes contrasting ways. Oversleeping or insomnia could both be signs of depression. Same goes with loss of appetite or overeating. Constipation without a physical cause could also be symptom. Sometimes outbursts of anger could be a manifestation of depression.  The symptoms may vary but are almost always characterized by feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and withdrawal.  Look out for these big three signs but DO NOT JUDGE.  Do not shame a person for any of the above, but gently observe and guide them to seek professional help. 

3. LISTEN WITH EMPATHY– When you listen to a person non judgmentally and try to feel his/ her pain, you give them psychological air to thrive in. When a person opens up to you, they are exposing their most vulnerable self. Please respect that trust they are reposing in you. Don’t listen to reply- LISTEN TO UNDERSTAND. More than a solution, they are seeking validation and they wish to be understood. 

4. Prioritize- If you are available for all your social media friends after attending to the priorities in your life, it is great. However, if you are available for them at the cost of your children, spouse, parents, close friends, colleagues or extended family – Please rethink and remember – Charity begins at home. If everyone had someone in their inner circle, who could do this for them, they would be able to tide over that momentarily difficult period and suicides can actually be prevented. 

5. Focus on the right things – To genuinely prevent depression from our lives and from the lives of those around us, we need to focus on people over things, character over personality, morals over models of cars and phones, self esteem over fame and other’s opinions The list can go on but I am sure you get the general idea.

6. Develop a Sense of humour – The role of sense of humour is also of paramount importance in this endeavor. Sense of humour is when you can laugh “with” others and not “at” others. If you can develop and hone the ability to laugh at yourself and your troubles then trust me,  you are an unlikely candidate for depression. 

7.   Develop Grit and Take failure as learning – Give up your sense of entitlement that life HAS to be fair. Experience tells us that life OUGHT to be fair in an IDEAL situation but MAY NOT always be so. Strive for that ideal situation but learn to accept unfairness and and take it in your stride.  Be resilient when it comes to failures. We are all here to learn and failures teach more than success. Learn, imbibe the lesson and move on. 

8. Avoid Comparison – Don’t compete with others and don’t compare your loved ones to others. Everyone has a different journey. Comparison is both cruel and unwarranted. Value your loved ones and they will value themselves. When they value themselves, they will never feel worthless and hopeless and you already know how that helps. 

9.  Life is not only about Success and a good IQ – Success is only a part of life, career is only an essential facet of life and academics are of some importance but life is bigger and more meaningful than all these. Focus on Social quotient, Emotional Quotient and Adversity Quotient also besides IQ. Focus on problem solving and analysis besides rote memory in teaching your children. If you know that a loved one is anxious, depressed or lacks coping resources, do not send them away to professional colleges or competitive job opportunities, far away from yourself, where they will come back to an empty room after a hard day! Be available for them till they develop  the necessary  coping resources. Do not depend on psychiatric drugs to take care. No psychiatric medicine can aver substitute for genuine care. Family support is important even when medication is necessary.   Be there!! 

10. Put Social Media to good use – Share this as widely as possible. Consider this a social media challenge. Share this with at least two people who are important in your life with the message that you are there for them, if ever needed.  Please do add your own inputs if you have any that you would like to share. Share it only if you genuinely mean it and are a part of the solution, not the problem.    #ChallengeSuicidePrevention

– Vichitra Dargan Anand

Would request every reader to share this post with others in their circle and please be available for your near and dear ones. If the ongoing Corona pandemic has taught us one thing, it is the reality that across the world, mental well being is a huge issue. Broken homes, multiple partners with no emotional attachment, parents trying hard to provide material comfort but struggling to find quality time with their children, public role models having feet of clay, internet putting age inappropriate content within easy reach – all these have led to loneliness, a sense of failure and consequently many times to suicide. Mental well being needs a reboot. Prevent suicide. Be available.

Suggested reading – The Science of Well Being – Yale University; Book Review #10/50 – Grit by Angela Duckworth

NGO that can help with suicide prevention (India) –

Prevent Suicides

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