(TW: Mention of Suicide)
World Suicide Prevention Day is observed across the globe, every year on September 10 th to raise awareness about suicide and how it can be prevented. According to WHO, only a few countries are known to have national suicide prevention strategies.
It is crucial to understand and acknowledge that suicide is not an individual “problem”, rather it is a much deeper socio- structural issue, which can have multiple causes and roots. Raising awareness about Suicide Prevention should not just be limited to promoting
individual self- care and asking people to reach out when in crisis, as it is an oversimplified and reductionist outlook towards a much more pressing and complicated issue. Such an individual centric approach, rather than helping people in need, ends up encouraging society to view suicide as a personal weakness or individual crisis.
Suicide is still seen as a criminal activity in India and many other countries. People use the phrase “committed suicide” when referring to an individual who took their own life, such language is not only insensitive as it reinforces the popular notion of suicide being a crime, but it also perpetuates a lot of stigma around mental health. We as a community end up blaming the individual, instead of focusing on larger structural and societal problems, like financial losses, economic deprivation, oppression and marginalization, loneliness, lack of access to good education or employment opportunities, or abuse.
Environmental and social factors such as these, are issues that an individual mostly has no control over, and thus it can have a negative impact on one’s mental well- being, emotional wellness, physical health, as well as on their relationships.
Suicidal behaviour has multiple causes that are broadly divided into proximal stressors or triggers and predisposition. Mood disorders, principally major depressive disorder and bipolar disorder, are associated with about 60% of suicides. Other contributory factors include availability of lethal means, alcohol and drug abuse, access to psychiatric treatment, attitudes to suicide, help-seeking behaviour, physical illness, marital status, age, and sex. To address these causes, suicide prevention involves a multifaceted approach with particular attention to mental health (Mann, J. et al., 2005).
It becomes more than important to adopt a holistic and a well-integrated approach towards Suicide Prevention, which focuses on community- healing, making mental healthcare services more accessible and affordable, reaching out to and helping individuals from marginalized communities, accepting people belonging to the LGBTQIA+ community, and much more. Several research studies have shown that suicide is multi- causal, and various personal and systemic problems can increase the risk for suicidal ideation. We as a society need to recognize that since suicide is complicated, the reasons behind it can also be multi-layered, incomprehensible, or unexplainable.
Since Durkheim postulated a relationship between economic change and suicide, there has been evidence of a general association between the aggregate data for unemployment and suicide. A review of previous studies revealed that unemployment is a risk factor for suicide and deliberate self-harm (Chen, V., et al., 2009).
Suicide Prevention entails having open conversations about this issue, creating a safe-space, decriminalizing suicide, and using more sensitive language when referring to suicide. However, unless we acknowledge that this is only the first step, and that we need to work towards bringing larger structural and systemic changes which ensure acceptance, quality of life, financial security, etc. to all individuals irrespective of their identity, we aren’t doing enough.
- Kalmár S. (2013). The possibilities of suicide prevention in adolescents. A holistic approach to protective and risk factors. Neuro psychopharmacologia Hungarica : official journal of the
Hungarian Association of Psychopharmacology, 15(1), 27–39. Retrieved from:https://www.researchgate.net/publication/236094093_The_possibilities_of_suicide_prevention_in_adolescents_A_holistic_approach_to_protective_and_risk_factors
- Mann JJ, Apter A, Bertolote J, et al. Suicide Prevention Strategies: A Systematic Review. JAMA. 2005;294(16):2064–2074. Retrieved from: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16249421/
- Chen, V.C., Chou, J., Lai, T. et al. Suicide and unemployment rate in Taiwan, a population-based study, 1978–2006. Soc Psychiat Epidemiol 45, 447–452 (2010). Retrieved from: https://www.researchgate.net/publication/225204994_Suicide_and_unemployment_rate_in_Taiwan_a_population-based_study_1978-2006
- Durkheim E (1952) Suicide: a study in sociology (1897). Translated by Spaulding JA, Simpson G. Routledge and Kegan Paul, London 2. Morrell S, Taylor R, Quine S, Kerr C (1993) Suicide and unemployment in Australia 1907–1990. Soc Sci Med 36(6):749– 756. Retrieved from: https://lecerveau.mcgill.ca/flash/capsules/articles_pdf/suicide.pdf