India has reported some of the highest numbers of suicides in teens and young adults in the world. On this world suicide prevention day, learn how to spot some subtle signs that someone you know may be showing, and read more about how you can help them.
While it may vary from person to person, any serious shift in one’s mood, actions or thoughts, warrants talking about. According to several experts TNM spoke to, more often than not, people who are feeling suicidal do give off subtle clues to those around them. “Many times, these thoughts are ones that most people harbour for a long time period, and it does start slipping out. It might be very obvious and they may just bluntly put it across, or they might be more hidden and expressing a few things here and there. Don’t let little things slide, open up a ground for discussions, make sure they know that you are there for them. I have heard so many people say to me that they have felt like a burden on those around them, and it’s only with repeated reassurance that they are able to get out of that mindset,” explained Nandini Ram, a Mumbai-based student counselor and mental health activist.
Signs to pay attention to
“Often times, people are battling their own minds for so long, that they start saying things. Don’t dismiss their words or thoughts, be receptive and just listen to what they have to say,” adds Nandini, “Many times people want someone to be ok, so they are quick to dismiss certain thoughts as nothing or ‘just a phase’, but the important thing is to really listen to whatever they have to say.”
Mood swings, sleep disturbances, suicidal thoughts and/or speech, are all signs that someone may be experiencing a difficult time and harboring these thoughts in their mind. Many also experience anxiety or panic attacks.
What to do if someone you know needs help
The first thing to do, is listen with an open mind to what they have to say. “With so many of the people I see in my sessions, one of the most important things to do is assess where they stand, and see whether they require medication or admission. There is still so much taboo around these things, but they are vital steps to helping someone,” says Sherin, a Chennai-based social worker who works in the mental health sector, “These are actually basic measures which may be needed for a short time, and even if it is needed for a longer time, it’s because we know that these things will be really helpful to a person.”
Once you have established a comfortable space for communication to take place, Sherin suggests that you help them seek professional help. Several other experts TNM spoke to also suggested the same. It is extremely important that you get professional attention.
“It’s almost become so commonplace to hear that there is ‘stigma’ around any mental health issue that we don’t think twice about it, but the fact is that stigma is there. I work exclusively with patients who have been diagnosed with major depressive disorder and have struggled with self-harm. Many have had to be admitted and treated with a combination of medication and therapy and have benefitted from the same,” says Dr Swathi R, a Chennai-based physician, “But so many people are hesitant to do so. The best thing you can do for someone is to get them the appropriate treatment.”
There are several helplines and support networks available throughout the country which you can access to help someone you know.
Self-care is important
It is essential to make sure that you are in a good space yourself, many people don’t realise that taking care of yourself is essential to being there for someone else. “Ensure that there’s someone that you can speak to as well, whether a professional or a friend or family member, having an outlet for you to express yourself as you support your loved one can be extremely beneficial for your own mental health,” says Dr Ashok Singh, a Delhi-based mental health consultant.
Several experts also pointed out that caretakers sometimes do experience burn-out of sorts, because they take on too much without paying heed to their capacities too, “You are human, and you too will need to give yourself the same kind of attention that you give those around you,” added Dr Ashok.