How much do you know about suicide? It's a topic so taboo in most cultures that many of us remain ignorant—or worse, misinformed—about it. For starters, there is a stigma that when a person threatens to commit suicide, he or she is just asking for attention.
But having suicidal tendencies goes beyond feeling sad or being depressed. It entails psychological, social, biological, cultural, and environmental factors. Even the happiest and most successful people can have suicidal tendencies.
Today is World Suicide Prevention Day. The first step in supporting the movement is to be correctly informed with facts. Here are things you should know about it:
MYTHS AND FACTS ABOUT SUICIDE
MYTH People who talk about suicide are just trying to get attention and shouldn’t be taken seriously.
FACT “People who die by suicide usually talk about it first,” explains Kevin Caruso of suicide.org. “They reach out for help because they do not know what to do and have lost hope.” According to Makati Medical Center’s Department of Psychiatry, over 70 percent of people who threaten to kill themselves proceed with the attempt.
MYTH Suicidal people and people who undergo psychiatric treatment are crazy.
FACT Suicidal behavior indicates deep unhappiness, but not necessarily mental disorder. “We use the term ‘crazy’ loosely to refer to someone who has lost touch with reality, which, in psychiatric parlance, refers to someone who is psychotic. Not all people who seek psychiatric help are psychotic,” says psychiatrist Dr. Rene Samaniego. “Instead of ostracizing suicidal people, what they actually need is compassion and empathy.”
MYTH Suicidal people are weak.
FACT According to Dr. Samaniego, people who consider committing suicide are clinically depressed, and have a biological chemical imbalance in their brain that makes them act irrationally. Instead of branding them as “weak,” family and friends are encouraged to offer help and reassurance by lending a sympathetic ear.
MYTH If the suicidal person finally feels better, he will no longer commit suicide.
FACT “Sometimes suicidal people feel better because they’ve finally decided to die by suicide, and a feel a sense of relief that the pain will soon be over,” Caruso says.
MYTH Talking about suicide is a bad idea and can be interpreted as encouragement.
FACT Given the widespread stigma around suicide, most people who are contemplating suicide do not know who to speak to. Rather than encouraging suicidal behavior, talking openly can give an individual other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide.
MYTH Most suicides happen suddenly without warning.
FACT The majority of suicides have been preceded by warning signs, whether verbal or behavioral. Of course there are some suicides that occur without warning. But it is important to understand that the warning signs are and look out for them.
MYTH Someone who is suicidal is determined to die.
FACT On the contrary, suicidal people are often ambivalent about living or dying. Someone may act impulsively by drinking pesticides, for instance, and die a few days later, even though they would have liked to live on. Access to emotional support at the right time can prevent suicide.
Source: World Health Organization; Cosmopolitan Philippines October 2013
HOW TO COPE WHEN A LOVED ONE IS SUICIDAL OR DEPRESSED
What can I do to help someone I suspect is clinically depressed?
Avoid negative comments and lectures, because it can make the depressed person feel worse. Offer your support by listening in a sympathetic manner. Reassure him or her that it’s okay to reach out and get help from counselors, psychologists, or psychiatrists. Once you’ve gotten the person’s trust, monitor him by keeping in touch and seeing if you–or others–can offer help.
How can I tell if someone is about to commit suicide?
- Extreme depression, dramatic mood swings
- Insomnia, hyperinsomnia
- Withdrawing from friends, family, and most activities
- Talking about suicide
- Making a will
- Suddenly visiting or calling friends and family “for one last time”
- Gathering instruments that will help him or her complete the suicide, such as a gun, rope, and pills
- Writing a suicide note
What can I do to stop someone from committing suicide?
If you spot at least one of the warning signs or if the person verbally tells you about his plan to commit suicide, you should seek the help of his family. Even if he tells you to keep it a secret, you should get help. A suicidal person cannot simply snap out of it. Enlist the help of a psychiatrist who will determine the types of therapy and medication he may need.
You can also ask help from the following organizations:
Natasha Goulbourn Foundation
Anton Osmena Tribute and SOS Philippines (Survivors of Suicide) Resource Site
Facebook group: Survivor of Suicide - Philippines
Center for Family Ministries (CEFAM)
894-5932 or 34
LIGHT A CANDLE TONIGHT
Show your support for suicide prevention by lighting a candle by your window at 8p.m. tonight (September 10), in memory of loved ones and the survivors of suicide.