Did you know that annually on the 10th of September, the world commemorates Suicide Awareness? It is a disheartening topic to speak of but it a much stigmatized topic too. Just ask yourself the last time you heard of the word Suicide being spoken and the circumstances surrounding it. 1 person every 40 seconds dies around the world due to suicide. Suicide is the 15th leading cause of death globally, account for 1.4% of all deaths. In 2012, 76% of global suicide occurred in low- and middle-income countries. Suicide is the result of a convergence of risk factors including but not limited to genetic, psychological, social and cultural risk factors, sometimes combined with experiences of trauma and loss. Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in people who die by suicide. For every 1 suicide, 25 people make a suicide attempt and 60 people are directly affected by each suicide death. Which puts them at risk of suicide.
To clarify, the word Suicide is the act of taking one’s own life. Hence the phrases: “committed suicide”, ‘took his/her own life’, ‘Died by suicide’ and ‘killed him/herself’. Attempted suicide is an act of self-injury that does not result in death. The term that many will relate to is Suicidal Ideation: this is the thought of ending one’s life but not taking any active role in bringing about death. How many of you have ever thought to yourself “I am so worthless or so sad that I should just not continue with life?”
Health is defined as a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of disease. Mental health includes our emotional, psychological, and social well-being. It affects how we think, feel, and act. It also helps determine how we handle stress, relate to others, and make choices. Mental health is important at every stage of life, from childhood and adolescence through adulthood. The statistics in Zambia are not very clear as suicide has not been well studied in Zambia. Mental Health is as important as physical health. When an individual has a common cold, it means their immune system is weak and they have a virus which will run its course and the cold will resolve. Similarly, for someone to get so sad that they feel worthless to entertain a suicidal ideation means their mental health strength at that point in life is weak. It does not mean that person is mentally ill. It’s a duration of the stability of their mental strength.
Did you know that every person you have interacted with in your life up to date has been shaped by reality? “The realization that each random passerby is living a life as vivid and complex as your own. Working with their own ambitions, friends, routines and worries. A larger-than-life story continues invisibly around you like an anthill deep underground, with elaborate passageways to thousands of other lives that you will never know existed, in which you might appear only once, as an extra drinking tea in the background or as a blur in traffic” This is the definition of the term SONDER. And if you take a minute and think about this you will understand that your thoughts and emotions are not just something that come out in the moment but they are fine-tuned as you go through in life.
To further explain, we are all aware of raised blood pressure which is controlled by medication and lifestyle changes. If not controlled it can complicate to a stroke and disability. Can you ask a person who has a stroke to simply ‘’GET OVER IT?” This equally applies to mental health, one does not simply get over it. Among the most common causes of suicide is that of mental illness. Although there are a variety of treatment options for people with mental illnesses, they are far from perfect. A variety of psychiatric drugs and/or talk therapies are used to help with mental illnesses.
The human race is very diverse. The thought pattern we possess is unique to each individual. One person’s weakest point is another person’s strongest point. This is why for a person to feel and entertain the idea of Suicide means that individual is at their lowest. They feel indifferent to the reality and all the anchor’s that hold us to see another tomorrow. It is at this point that we need someone to guide us to see another tomorrow (or maybe 30 tomorrows to GET OVER IT?) It is a biological process in the brain that needs to be assessed and recognized.
To commemorate suicide awareness and world suicide prevention day, take a minute and call your friends, family, social support network who have helped you move past your weakest points in life. Simply ask “ARE YOU OKAY?” Starting a conversation and risking your feelings to help save a life is a risk worth taking. If you think someone is at immediate risk of self-harm or hurting another person: Stay with the person until help arrives. Remove things that may cause harm to the person. Listen, before you speak; do not judge, argue, threaten, or yell. If your friend or loved one isn’t in immediate danger but is having suicidal thoughts, then you can simply speak to them about the challenges they may be facing. During the conversation, make sure you: Stay calm and speak in a reassuring tone. Acknowledge that their feelings are legitimate. Offer support and encouragement. Reassure them that suicidal feelings are temporary. Tell them that help is available and that they can feel better with treatment.
You should never minimize their problems or shame them into changing their mind. Listening to them and showing your support is the best way to help them. You can also try encouraging them to seek professional care. Offer to help them find a health care provider or mental health professional, make a phone call, or go with them to their first appointment.