Give ear to hear the quiet cries for help! | Daily News

Give ear to hear the quiet cries for help!

Today Monday September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day. A recent report detailing the mental health of adolescents in Sri Lanka and the World Health Organisation has revealed that seven percent of adolescents aged between 13 and 17 have attempted suicide one or more times.

The report also reveals that nine percent of adolescents have considered committing suicide and five percent of these youth suffer anxiety while nine percent experience loneliness. From a global perspective statistics reveal that one person commits suicide every 40 seconds.

A study conducted by the WHO in 2014 had ranked Sri Lanka in the fourth position among 172 countries in terms of most suicide prone counties in the world. Several suicidal people do at times give out warning signs in the hope that they will be rescued. Most just want an end to the never ending emotional pain and hurt, not to die.

To certain people who have never experienced depression, the seemingly invisible condition can seem like a simple lack of will power. They take the condition far too lightly and often dismiss it asking them to cheer up or tell them they are making a big deal of some trivial problem.

Many may believe it is a desire for drama or attention, or worse still by accusing them of being selfish. The problem is that none of that is true. The real issue is that a person with depression suffers from a condition just as real as chicken pox or the flu. Society does not blame people who have chicken pox or the flu, but we do unfairly blame people with depression for their symptoms.

Most studies indicate that depression is either caused by an imbalance of chemicals in the brain or substance abuse. Whether it stems from other factors or not it is a clearly diagnosable condition that many people suffer from. It is not a moral failing. It does not mean they are weak or incorrigible. It means they are suffering from a medically diagnosable condition. As such there are many things that can be done for it.

What makes a person want to commit suicide? This is not an easy question to answer. The answers vary from person to person. But usually the reply involves trying to block out unbearable emotional pain and hurt. Many times it is a silent cry for help. When you get to the point of contemplating suicide, you are often so distressed that you are unable to see any other options, any other way out.

Everyone has problems and can usually find ways of dealing with isolated stressful or traumatic events and experiences reasonably well. But sometimes there is a build up of these kinds of events over a period of time. When this happens all the coping strategies that they have put into place are pushed to their limits.

These limits vary from person to person. Rape and abuse survivors are extremely vulnerable targets. They have to deal with all kinds of memories, flashbacks of terror, depression, relationship problems, trust issues to name but a few, on top of everyday problems that may crop up. It sometimes gets to the stage where it all becomes too much to deal with.

A person who is contemplating suicide is usually so distressed that they can’t see that there are other options available to them. Their distress is overwhelming and they can feel totally isolated and alone with their feelings.

When someone tells you they are having suicidal thoughts and feelings it is imperative that you listen. Encourage them to talk about their feelings. They need to know how you feel about it. Tell them outright that you don’t want them to die. Try to make yourself available for them. Never dismiss their problems lightly. Take them seriously. Try to extract a promise from them that when they feel suicidal they will contact you or someone who can help, such as a counsellor or a doctor, before they do anything.

Many may consider talking may not be doing much to help in such a crucial issue. Nothing could be further from the truth. Talking is certainly a healing therapy for troubled and confused minds. Yes, talking and listening can be far more therapeutic than one could imagine. It is important that professionals who know how to help resolve the problems are informed with the least delay. People who have attempted to take their own life previously are more likely to attempt suicide again. Yet, counselling alone may not be able to cure the problems outright.

But it is an approach to finding a means of initially coping with the tortured mind. And it could possibly help in hitting on ways of resolving some of the concerns that may be contributing to a person’s suicidal tendencies. The most frequently-used methods for suicides are pesticide poisoning, hanging and firearms.

But leaping off high-rise buildings and jumping in front of moving trains are common methods in highly urbanised areas in Asia. The shrinks all agree that there remains a lack of psycho-social care targeted at individuals, especially those traumatised by conflict experiences in Sri Lanka.

Besides, issues surrounding mental health remain stigmatised here, as they do everywhere in the world. This stigma surrounding mental health is not a Sri Lankan problem, it is a global one, but it needs to be dealt with here as urgently as anywhere. But the vital factor to remember is that it is not just those suffering from trauma that we need to worry about. Mental health is a problem that strikes people across all ages, all communities, all levels of society, whether they are rich or poor, successful or not, from happy or broken families, from cities or villages.

Certainly the framework for helping people with mental health problems has been put in place and that is a good thing, but the momentum must be maintained. Now, we need to work on constructing a society and a culture that understands mental health and try to understand why people commit suicide, and to do everything we can to support and help people get through their battles with depression.

The most important aspect of recovery from depression is support. If someone does not have a strong support network and then feels alone and worthless as a result of depression it is much harder to see the light at the end of the tunnel. You could be someone’s hero just by giving them a kind word, letting them cry on your shoulder and being brave enough to ask them if they are okay.

The worst that will happen if you ask a friend a colleague or loved one who seems in pain if they are considering suicide is that they will say no and know that you care enough about them to ask. If they say yes, you might have just saved a life. Hard questions might not be politically correct, but they can save lives. It is better to ‘overreact’ than to lose a loved one or a friend.

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