“But in the end, one needs more courage to live than to kill himself” – Albert Camus “Sri Lanka marked World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. Here Clinical Psychologist Chrishara Paranawithana details what everyone should know about suicide. There is a severe lack of awareness on mental health in Sri Lanka which contributes to [...]


Reach out before it’s too late


 “But in the end, one needs more courage to live than to kill himself” – Albert Camus

Clinical Psychologist Chrishara Paranawithana

“Sri Lanka marked World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10. Here Clinical Psychologist Chrishara Paranawithana details what everyone should know about suicide.

There is a severe lack of awareness on mental health in Sri Lanka which contributes to our high rate of suicides.

  • When you’re suicidal, the  world feels dead to you. If a person feeling this way can be given some form of hope it would benefit them greatly.
  • ‘Don’t suffer alone’ – there are things you can do to help with suicidal thoughts.
  • Thoughts fluctuate – your feelings, situation, mental framework etc also change. Don’t languish alone during a low period of your life.
  • If you’re extremely suicidal, you need in-house treatment until the suicidal ideations settle. You need to have access to a trained mental health professional (who will monitor you regularly and with whom you have the space to discuss your issues.
  • Suicidal ideation is taken very seriously by mental health professionals and the general public should do the same.
  • If a caregiver even notices that someone is talking about suicide, or that someone has attempted suicide or is depressed, that’s the time when you really need to take immediate action because the mental state of that individual is very vulnerable.
  • One way to provide immediate support is to show that someone is there for a suicidal or depressed individual to talk to and be able to rely on.
  • Always ask yourself – how well equipped am I to face this situation? Sometimes the problems bothering you might be too great for you to handle on your own.

Commenting on the common problem of people needing help and not seeking it, Chrishara says it is down to self-denial. “You don’t realize that you are not equipped to handle certain difficult situations,” she explains. There is no shame in asking for help.

  • With adolescents, parents always think that it’s the child who is extremely stubborn or that it’s the child’s problem – the child doesn’t give respect. “What they don’t understand is that the child also goes through this very difficult brain change during that time and when we explain that to the parents they settle down a bit,” explains Chrishara.

Preventative skills

  • Helping youth develop preventative skills is important: Young adults need help to identify their own strengths and to help them make up their minds to face adverse circumstances and successes and also to cope with competitive educational and professional environments.
  • How do I perceive this situation and what can I do? What is my approach towards this problem? You might be living in an extremely difficult situation – how do you plan to cope with that situation?

Social and demographic risk factors

  • Being male – Men are more likely to commit suicide while women might talk about it before attempting suicide.
  • Being unemployed.
  • Being single, widowed, separated or divorced.
  • Stress during adolescence – There are changes in brain, nervous system etc. which play a part and causes impulsivity. Peer pressure (if you don’t feel accepted/ are bullied) etc also plays a role as do conflicts with family and identity crises. The emotional centres of the brain are quite strong and sensitive during this time while the reasoning centres may take a backstage and develop more slowly.
  • Unemployment and retirement.
  • Being physically, sexually or emotionally abused.

Clinical risk factors

  • Personality dynamics
  • Psychiatric illnesses or distressing psychological conditions – whether diagnosed or not
  • A history of deliberate self-harm
  • Chronic addiction
  • A family history of psychiatric or psychotic disorders
  • Depression – moderate depression if not treated may lead to severe forms of depressive illness which would automatically lead to suicidal ideation (At that point it is vital to seek professional support and talk to a non-judgmental loved one).
  • The intensity of the problem – is the individual just talking about it or do they speak of a plan of committing suicide or have an actual pattern of attempting it?
  • Terminal illness – either the person suffering from illness or a caregiver
  • Bereavement – feelings of emptiness following the loss of a loved one may cause pathological grief

What can I do if I feel suicidal?

  • Have a safety plan – an emergency plan in case you have suicidal thoughts.
  • Step 1 – Write down who you would contact first, what safe place you would go to rather than being alone, how would you contact your mental health professional
  • Step 2 – Have a positive self care plan – Make a list of people whom you would call, earmark a good crisis line, and list out other activities which would make you feel calmer
  • Step 3 – Meet with a professional – get immediate help
  • Step 4 – Talk to a non-judgmental loved one
  • Step 5 – Get help focusing on the positive things in your life – this is difficult during depression which is why help from a licensed mental health professional is vital. Individuals who have tried to commit suicide are most likely to try again.
  • Refer to positive websites such as Tiny Buddha, Psychology Today etc. for supportive tips.

What can a caregiver do?

  • Recognise the signs: If a person is talking differently, especially if there are sudden changes in speech these are a red flag – if there’s a lot of swearing/ behavioural changes or using phrases like ‘never’/ ‘it’s always like this’/ generalized talking about how ‘I’m always at a state where nothing is going well’/ ‘I’m unfortunate’ etc. these are warning signs.
  • Reach out and get help for the person from a licensed mental health professional.
  • Take it seriously – “sometimes I hear people say that this person is talking about suicide but are they actually serious about it – even if someone talks about it there is some unconscious element attached to it, so take it seriously and see how the person could be supported,” says Chrishara.
  • Understand the mental and emotional state of the other person – don’t judge or blame them.

If you try to commit suicide, you will most likely regret it

According to some scientific research, there are reports that during the last minutes there is regret due to physical and psychological pain – physically the extreme pain of dying with the method chosen and psychologically a person’s instincts towards safeguarding his/her life.

US study finds stress driving students to consider suicide
By Natalie Rahhal, Health Reporter For Dailymail.comAn alarming number of college students in the US say that they experience so much stress that they consider suicide, a new report reveals.
As many as one in five students encounter such intense academic pressure, family, relationship, career and financial troubles that they struggle to see a way forward.
Researchers from Harvard Medical School’s Brigham and Women’s hospital were especially surprised by how many college students encountered not one, but several, sources of stress they felt might be insurmountable.

The findings come amid National Suicide Prevention week, and point to the importance of not only professional but peer support for this particularly vulnerable age group.  Suicide is on the minds of many in the US these days, with the high-profile deaths of celebrities like Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade and the controversy over the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why highlighting the issue.  But for many college students, suicide is much more than a buzz word – it is a very real consideration and threat to their lives.

In 2016, 45,000 Americans committed suicide. Among young adults, suicide rates have tripled since the 1950s, accounting for 4.3 percent of deaths among 15- to 24-year-olds in the US. One in four of the 67,000 students the researchers surveyed said they had a diagnosed mental health issue or had been treated for one in the past.

But far more – three quarters – had experienced a significantly stressful event in the past year.These events could include anything from pressure to succeed in their classes to health problems (including their own or those of family members and loved ones), to a death in the family, relationship and financial fall out.
Perhaps the most gravely affected groups were LGBTQ students, for whom rates of suicidal thoughts increased by more than 20 percent since 2009.

An unprecedented number of young adults are physically harming themselves and making attempts at suicide, too, the report found.
Almost 20 percent of students reported self-injury,and nine said they had made suicide attempts.

The situation is perhaps most dire among transgender students, who make up a small but growing minority of college-age Americans: more than two thirds turned to cutting or other forms of self-harm and a full third tried to kill themselves.

More than 30 percent of college students now seek out counselling services in a given year, according to previous research.
Noting the higher stress levels in their populations, colleges have responded by implementing more services of varying kinds to meet students’ needs.

(C) Daily Mail, London

Seek help
Always seek out licensed, qualified and properly trained mental health professionals or call a well-recommended hotline.
A trained social worker may also help ease a difficult situation.
Contact Sumithrayo which offers free and highly confidential counselling services, including walk-in counselling sessions as well as sessions over the phone and via e-mail.
Phone – 011- 2696666, 0719999080, 011-2692909 or 011-2683555.
Address – 60B, Horton Place, Colombo 07
mail – sumithra@sumithrayo.org or sumithrayo@sltnet.lk
Website – https://sumithrayo.org/
Available from 9 a.m. – 8 p.m. daily

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