By Kritika Suri (A Clinical Psychologist & Mental Health Professional)
Suicide is as an act with a fatal outcome, deliberately initiated and performed in the knowledge or expectation of its fatal outcome. In India, over one lakh lives are lost every year as a result of suicide and this figure does not take into account the gross underreporting. According to WHO, approximately 1 million people die each year from suicide.
There is a range, however, between thinking about suicide and acting it out. Some people have ideas of suicide that they will never act on; some plan for days, weeks, or even years before acting; and others take their lives seemingly on impulse, without premeditation. Therefore, Understanding the potential at risk and protective factors would play an important role in identifying at risk population and in reducing the rate of suicide which is increasing at an alarming rate.
Risk factors are those factors which make an individual more vulnerable or increase the likelihood that the individuals will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. Protective factors are characteristics that make it less likely that individuals will consider, attempt, or die by suicide. However, risk factors are often confused with warning signs of suicide. But the two are very different. Warning signs indicate an immediate risk of suicide, whereas risk factors indicate someone is at heightened risk for suicide, but indicate little or nothing about immediate risk. There are some of the risk factors that can be modified however, some cannot be changed.
Some of the Major risk factors for suicide include the following:
•Family history of suicide
•Previous suicide attempt(s)
•History of mental disorders, particularly clinical depression
•History of alcohol and substance abuse
•Impulsive or aggressive tendencies
•Cultural and religious beliefs (e.g., belief that suicide is noble resolution of a personal dilemma)
•Isolation, a feeling of being cut off from other people
•Loss (relational, social, work, or financial)
•Easy access to lethal methods
Major protective factors include the following:
•Effective clinical care for mental, physical, and substance abuse disorders
•Easy access to a variety of clinical interventions and support for help seeking
•Family and community support (connectedness)
•Skills in problem solving, conflict resolution, and nonviolent ways of handling disputes
•Cultural and religious beliefs that discourage suicide and support instincts for self-preservation
It has been found that the most important protective factor among married patients is their family i.e., their wife and children. Recently, I saw a patient in IPD who incurred huge loss in his business. During my interview I elicited that he had suicidal thoughts and even planned to end his life but having family in mind, he drifted his mind from this extreme step and motivated himself to come out of his illness and seek help.
Therefore, the impact of risk factors like financial loss, impulsive tendencies etc can clearly be reduced by facilitating certain interventions like providing supportive therapy, strengthening social support in a community and developing Problem-solving skills.
A suicidal person may not ask for help, but that doesn't mean that help isn't wanted. People who take their lives don't want to die—they just want to stop suffering. Suicide prevention starts with recognizing the warning signs and taking them seriously. If you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you might be afraid to bring up the subject. But talking openly about suicidal thoughts and feelings can save a life. You can play a role in suicide prevention by pointing out the alternatives, showing that you care, and getting a psychiatrist or a clinical psychologist involved.
Let’s beat the stigma!!