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Mind It

Read about what the experts have to say about mental health.

The Epidemic of Suicide

Suicide is a major public health concern. Every year around the world more than 8,00,000 people commit suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death between 15 to 24 year olds. Whether or not Suicide is preventable is a topic of discussion, with recent research suggesting that familiarizing oneself with the risk factors for suicide, can at least delay a suicidal attempt if not prevent it altogether; which is better than being completely unaware about suicide and its dynamics.

Unlike many of the leading causes of death, suicide rate has shown no appreciable decline over the last 50 years. Studies have shown that, though for some young people a suicidal attempt is a one-off event, 50% are likely to repeat an attempt within the following 12 months and some more of these are successful. Use of psychotherapies (one or a combination of) has shown that adult suicide attempters can be prevented from reattempting.

People of all genders, age, religion etc. can be at risk for suicide. People who are depressed, who show disruptive behavior, who suffer from substance abuse disorder (excessive use of drugs, smoking, gambling etc.), who are exposed to family members or friends with suicidal tendencies, people who have experienced any form of abuse, those with easy access to guns or other tools which facilitate a suicide attempt, and most importantly those who have a history of suicide attempts, are at much higher risk for attempting suicide.

Many programmes focus on treating mental and substance abuse disorders as these are the risk factors for suicide. “Psychotherapy” or “talk therapy”, can effectively reduce suicide risk. Cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) trains people to consider alternative actions when suicidal thoughts arise and can equip people with new ways of dealing with stressful experiences. Dialetic behaviour therapy (DBT) helps people recognize their own feelings or actions that are unhealthy, and teaches the skills needed to deal better with upsetting situations. Cognitive and problem solving therapies focus on helping the youngsters and their families solve practical and relationship related problems, show the most promise.

A better understanding of risk, prevention, and treatment along with the scientifically based policies may make the difference in reducing the numbers of suicide deaths. The efforts to curtail the rampantly increasing suicide rates in the society will only be successful if the society as a whole makes a collective effort.

Contributed by Shama Keny (undergraduate student – psychology) during her internship.