11th of September, 2007

 

Can we eliminate suicide from our society?

Dr.V.A.P.Ghorpade, M.D.,D.P.M.,

Consultant Psychiatrist, Sexologist and De-addictionist,

Health Centre, IISc, Bangalore.

E mail Id anandpraksh@yahoo.com

 

Dear IIScians,

 

World Health Organization declared September, 10th, 2007 as the day of World Suicide Prevention Day which was celebrated all over the world in different ways. I thought, giving  you food for thought related to this topic, would be the best way to celebrate World Suicide Prevention Day in IISc, with the hope that Suicides can be prevented to the extent possible.

 

Suicide is a biopsychosocial behavior wherein an individual either impulsively or in a well planned way put’s an end to his existence on this planet due to multiple reasons.

 

Suicide is not a problem of the modern world as it is well known to exist in the past also.  Irrespective of their socioeconomic situation, religion, culture and status in the society, many personalities have succumbed to this behavior.

 

The word "suicide" was first used by Sir Thomas Browne in 1642 in his Religion Medici. The word originated from SUI (of oneself) and CAEDES (murder). Since then, the word has evoked constant and continuous debate and has been defined in various ways for medical, social, psychological, administrative, legal, spiritual and religious purposes.

 

Suicide can be of different types viz. egoistic (where an individual tries to kill himself due to his personal reasons), Altruistic suicide (wherein an individual tries to kill himself to achieve a goal of the society-suicide bombers) or chronic suicide (wherein an individual life style results in slow death – smoking, addictions or non-compliance with the treatment of chronic ailments).

 

All these behaviors have aroused curiosity in the mind’s of Sociologists, Psychologists and Psychiatrists, Religious persons and Philosophers and has given rise to a common question “Can Suicide be prevented?, Why do these people try to kill themselves prematurely?

 

As a Psychiatrist I would like to concentrate on the preventive aspects of this behavior which, I presume that it will make all the readers to become aware of this burning and saddening issue that has been bothering many of us in the past, present , so that as a citizen we can try to prevent it.

 

First I would like to clarify some of the myths that exist in the society about Suicide.

 

  1. People Who Talk About Suicide Are Just Trying To Get Attention.

The truth is that this statement which is told by an individual should never be ignored and it should arouse a sense of alertness in the listeners mind.

This should motivate him to seek professional help from a psychiatrist.

  1. People who talk about wanting to die by suicide do not try to kill themselves

      These people when they are in a vulnerable situation they may suddenly

      carryout what they say.  This should be taken seriously and early intervention yield       good results.

  1. Suicide always occurs without any warning signs.

Any person, who attempts to suicide, will be thinking about it for a long time and its accumulative result is Suicide.  He would have indicated to his close kith and kin about his intention which will be brushed aside from them. Retrospectively everyone becomes intelligent with a feeling of guilt. Hence Suicide is considered as “CRY FOR HELP”

  1. Once people decide to die by suicide, there is nothing you can do to stop them.

Understanding of this behavior and improved treatment methods (drugs and behavioral therapy etc) has brought in Optimism in the minds of Psychiatrists as these people can be treated and act of suicide can be stopped.

This is the “Early intervention can reduce the suicide rate in the society”

  1. Suicide only strikes people of a certain gender, race, financial status, age, etc.

All are equal in the eyes of death. Every individual is a potential candidate of Suicide.  Suicide can present in different unrecognizable ways like a mask which hides the true intentions of an individual.

  1. People who attempt suicide and survive will not attempt suicide again.

As suicide is an instant solution to the burning problem (Stress) of an individual, unless coping skills are improved, he may repeat this act again in futures as life is not a bed of roses, because thorns are there in between.

  1. People who attempt suicide are crazy.

Some of the people who attempt suicide have mental disorders such as schizophrenia, Depression and substance abuse, but not all of them are crazy. What they need is sympathy and empathy of the society which can solve their crisis which enables them to lead a fruitful life.

  1. Young people never think about suicide, they have their entire life ahead of them.

Age is no bar for Suicide.

 

What are the risk factors that drive an individual to Suicide?

·        Broken family

·        Bereavement

·        Economic crisis

·        Occupational stress

·        Interpersonal stress

·        Substance abuse

·        Family history of suicide or mental illnesses

·        Suffering from chronic intractable ailments

·        Old age suffering

 

What are the factors that protect an Individual from Suicide?

·        Happy family environment

·        Good communication in the job, family and friends

·        Strong religious background

·        Good hobbies

·        Stress free life

·        Good Physical, Mental, Social and Spiritual Health

 

Which is the most important mental disorder which is associated with increased suicide?

 

Depression which is considered as a common cold is the most common ailment which is associated with increased suicide. There is no one on this earth who can say that he has not suffered from common cold, similarly depression. It could be of different severity.

Depression results from many causes and is TREATABLE now effectively with antidepressants drugs, Cognitive behavioral therapy and environment manipulations etc.

 

Take Home Message

Depression is the commonest cause for suicide. Preventing, recognizing depression and early treatment will reduce suicidal behavior and reduce the impact of it on the society and family.

Do not neglect Depression and seek professional help of a psychiatrist at the earliest by shedding the STIGMA OF MENTAL ILLNESSES and visiting a Psychiatrist.

Psychiatrists are doctors who treat mental disorders like any other Doctors who treat Physical disorders.  Why this Stigma?