World Suicide Prevention Day: #LETsTALK

Mental health professionals suggest being open to talking about problems and a solid support system can prevent feelings of despair.

Anxiety and depression are becoming a global epidemic. There is an increased need to live the perfect life and any failure in achieving this often surrounds an individual with feelings of discontentment leading to severe stress, and at times, even suicidal thoughts. This idea of a perfect life usually includes having a great job, a fabulous relationship and a host of material possessions. While setting goals is important, it is equally important to be able to balance success and failures.

Dr Samir Parikh, Director of the Fortis National Mental Health Program asserts that failure to achieve desired goals can definitely cause significant stress, often leading to increased levels of frustration. “With the lack of a proper support system, a sense of failure could induce feelings of helplessness, hopelessness, worthlessness and despair. With such a state of mind, there is a greater susceptibility for an individual to experience suicidal ideation.”

Social media has become omnipresent in our lives and ‘social media addiction’ is slowly becoming a new reality. We are constantly bombarded with the idea of a perfect life especially on social media, and in the pressure of showcasing this perfect life people end up with severe anxiety.

Dr Sanjay Chugh, renowned psychiatrist stresses that the problem with something like social media addiction is that it has increasingly led to emotional alienation, emotional isolation, people existing more and more as islands. Chugh further added, “You can interact with people on Facebook, on Instagram, on WhatsApp and so on, but it is largely anonymous and faceless interaction.”

Dr Parikh while highlighting other factors contributing to stress and depression because of social media usage said that social media cannot be directly considered as a cause of mental illness, an excessive dependence or obsession with using such social media platforms could be manifesting into problems of peer pressure, cyberbullying, or even behavioural concerns. “It is common for adolescents to be preoccupied with their identity on social media platforms thereby, having a consequent impact on their sense of self-confidence, self-esteem as well as overall self-image. Such a psychological relationship can increase their vulnerability to experiencing anxiety or depressive features.”

While talking about the causes behind suicidal tendencies, Dr Parikh stressed that the feelings of helplessness, hopelessness as well as a sense of despair are usually the main triggers for a suicidal attempt.

“However, such emotions are experienced by an individual who is experiencing depression, with low moods, disinterest in previously enjoyable activities, fatigue, and other prominent symptoms”, he further added.

In addition to other factors, Dr Chugh pointed out that our current understanding of suicidal thoughts of suicide attempts is that there are very strong biological bases to suicidal ideation. “People who do not have a genetic vulnerability to have suicidal tendencies irrespective of the circumstances will never think about it. However, people who have a genetic vulnerability irrespective of right circumstances are likely to suffer from biological depression and will surround themselves with suicidal thoughts.”

Suicide is the 8th highest killer in the world and 90 per cent of those who commit suicide have an undiagnosed, untreated or partially treated psychiatric condition as the root cause. In fact, given the changes in the societal structures in recent years, with reduced levels of social support available, along with smaller families and decreased social interaction, all contribute to such an impact.

Highlighting intervention as an important method for preventing suicides, Dr Parikh said that suicide prevention is possible, and the simplest thing to remember about this is to be open to talking. “More often than not, suicide is not an impulsive decision that happens on the spur of the moment, which means that there could be clear warning signs from people who might be contemplating suicide.”

With an increase in suicide rates across the world, there's a need to educate people about the symptoms of suicidal tendencies. "It is important for all of us to be vigilant to these signs, and to know how to respond to them, for example, a sudden disinterest in previously enjoyable activities, reclusion or a sense of isolation, increased irritability or anger outbursts, a sense of hopelessness towards the future, etc. Not only can they give clues about impending suicidal behaviour but more often than not, they are desperate cries for help by the depressed individual. Therefore, we need to encourage help-seeking behaviour, and direct them to reach out to a mental health professional to alleviate their distress levels and help them tide over the urge, further working towards suicide prevention." said Dr Parikh.

Life is seldom all good or all bad, there are always rough patches. As individuals, we should encourage our loved ones to converse about these difficult times. We need to promote a culture of talking and sharing. #Let’sTalk

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