On September 10 every year, World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) provides the opportunity for people across the globe to raise awareness of suicide and suicide prevention. According to the IASP – International Association for Suicide Prevention– this year’s theme and for the next three years is: Creating Hope Through Action. It is a reminder to all of us that there is an alternative to suicide and that our actions, no matter how big or small, may provide hope to those who are struggling. The global aim within this three-year theme is to “create a social movement of preventative action” that would require the involvement of everyone. There are three particular groups that play a role of key importance:
I will state this again and again. Suicide does not happen randomly. Death by suicide happens when pain exceeds one’s resources for coping with the pain. In many instances, most persons want to find some alternative to suicide; and suicidal thoughts, feelings and behaviours are based on important needs that are perceived as not being addressed. Individuals who take their own life, who die by suicide have often been struggling with serious problems such as depression, social distress and unemployment, alcoholism and other forms of abuse. Taking one’s life is not the way to deal with a challenge but in most instances, the persons who do so are not thinking clearly or rationally. This death can affect the family of the deceased for the rest of their lives and some family members may blame themselves for ignoring the red flags.
In the IASP’s World Congress this month, there is a focus on children and adolescents, as there has been an increase in suicidal deaths among this age group globally. In Trinidad this year, the youngest person to die was a nine-year-old male who took his life by hanging. Every week in this country, 2-3 persons take their lives and 20 more persons are thinking of doing so. Isolation, boredom and loneliness have increased mental illness for teenagers with pre-existing mental health disorders and for children who are exposed to cyber-bullying and adverse online schooling experiences. Parents and caregivers, please watch out for warning signs of prolonged sadness, depression, irritability, anger and talks of suicide ideation (wanting to die/wishing life was over). It is necessary for young persons to maintain connections with loved ones who would let them know that they care about them and support them. Do not trivialise these warning signs as looking for attention.
Preventing suicide is often possible. The factors and causes that lead to suicide are complex and no single approach works for everyone. There are certain factors and life events that may make someone more vulnerable to suicide, and mental health conditions such as anxiety and depression can also be contributing factor. By creating hope through action, we can signal to people experiencing suicidal thoughts that there is hope and that we care and want to support them (IASP 2021).
Most persons — children and teenagers also — who are in a ‘dark place’, sometimes just need a listening ear to tell someone of their experiences and thoughts with no judgement, no solutions or a quick fix to their challenges. They need to feel connected to others who can motivate them and inspire them to hope and to believe in themselves. In our own small way, let us be a beacon of hope, a pillar of support and a guiding light to others. You can be the light for someone. Let this be our motto as we help others along. Each one must reach one!
On September 10, join with TTAP (Trinidad and Tobago Association of Psychologists) and many other organisations across the world who are playing their part in the prevention of suicide by doing any of the following:
· Social media posts of affirmations and hope for others
· Banners in organisations – Hope through Action
· Light a candle at 6 p.m. or toot your horns if you are driving
· Newspaper articles to raise awareness and decrease the stigma of mental illness.
Remember: Each one, Reach one!
Take care. Be safe.
Written by Dr Margaret Nakhid-Chatoor
Immediate Past President (TTAP)