Depression is a kind of mental disorder that can cause suicidal tendencies- that’s how most of us tend to put it this way. We have thousands of people, among us, who are living with extreme anxiety issues and have expressed their incapacities to talk about their mental health even to their loved ones. Recently, the tragic demise of actor Sushant Singh Rajput has fuelled a new fresh discussion on mental health in India and suicide as a leading cause of death among the youth.
In India, nearly more than 1,00,000 people commit suicide every year, according to National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). As per the official statistics, a total of 1,34,516 suicides were reported in 2018, an increase of 3.6 per cent from 2017. And yet, people dither more often, to cite their issues openly or manage to recognize and address suicidal tendencies in a person. In an attempt to raise awareness on this, let us debunk some common myths about suicide:
Myth: People who talk about suicide do not commit it
If people express their concerns revolving around death, others tend to belittle that person. It is also seen as an attention-seeking tactic and not taken seriously, Dr Sharmila Banwat, consultant clinical psychologist, Nanavati Super Speciality Hospital, told indianexpress.com. The truth is, people who talk about suicide may be reaching out for help or support, mentions World Health Organisation (WHO) in a document titled Preventing Suicide.
Myth: If there is a family history of suicide, there are high chances of committing it
“Suicide is not genetically transmitted. It is about the environment at home and the emotional state of the individual. Just because someone else in the family has committed suicide does not mean they will also commit it,” the psychologist asserted.
Myth: People who have already attempted suicide may not give a try again
To be honest, it is rather the opposite. “Suicide survivors have a higher risk of attempting again. So one needs to be very vigilant about it,” Dr Banwat advised. Heightened suicide risk, however, is often short-term and situation-specific, says WHO. “While suicidal thoughts may return, they are not permanent and an individual with previously suicidal thoughts and attempts can go on to live a long life.”
Myth: Suicide attempts happen very suddenly
In almost nine out of 10 cases, there will be some triggering signs but unfortunately, they get ignored, said the psychologist. “Among the youth, there may be some suicide note but there are some adolescents who are very secretive about it. If family members and friends notice any change in the person’s behaviour, they must take it seriously. There may be some important indications that need to be checked immediately,” she added.
Myth: Only people with critical mental health issues commit suicide
NCRB lists down various causes of suicide in their reports–professional or career paths, sense of isolation, abuse, violence, family problems, addiction to alcohol, financial loss and chronic pain, apart from mental disorders.
Dr Banwat said, “There are multiple disorders where there may be a probability of suicide. Think of the pandemic-led crisis because of which people are experiencing a lot of hopelessness, aimlessness and anxiety. And with the social connect being very low right now, the youth especially–between 15-25 years of age–is facing a lot of challenges. So if there any warning signs among these people, they should be taken very seriously.”
Not all people with critical mental disorders exhibit suicidal tendencies and not all people, who drastically take their own lives have a mental disorder, WHO further mentions.
Myth: The moment the intent to commit suicide is hinted at, there is no way to step back
If the intent is massively triggered, it needs to be treated urgently, the doctor warned. “As mental health professionals, we also do a suicide-risk assessment that tells us the degree of the intention to commit suicide, and it can be immediately addressed with the help of family members,” she emphasised.
Myth: Do not talk about suicide or it would mean planting ideas
On the contrary, by speaking you encourage a person to share their thoughts and pour their heart out. Dr Banwat remarked, “A person may just have passing suicidal ideas; they may not have actually planned it. By taking to the person, one can get to know what they are actually thinking and to what level — whether it is just a passing thought or something they are really considering or there if there have been attempts in the past that we are unaware of.”
WHO also mentions that rather than encouraging suicidal thoughts, talking openly can give an individual “other options or the time to rethink his/her decision, thereby preventing suicide”.