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23/03/2015

Facts and myths about suicide

Facts and myths about suicide
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The World Health Organisation (WHO)'s first global report on suicide prevention is an alarming one. With approximately 800,000 persons dying from suicide globally every year, it means that there is one death every 40 seconds.

Back home, Thomas Johnson, founder of Aasra, a suicide prevention helpline, says, they receive 55 to 60 calls every day. More try to reach out through e-mails and social media. "One of every three suicides takes place in India, making us the suicide capital of the world." Their call volumes increase from December to July. This is the exam to result period when students are under immense pressure, says Thomas. Also, winter in general is another peak period.

Yet, there is little information available on suicide, while myths add to the confusion. We get experts to present facts and clarify misconceptions.

FACT

In developing nations, suicide is more prevalent than AIDS, cancer, and diabetes combined

Unbelievable, but true. Dr Ajit Dandekar, Consulting Psychiatrist at Nanavati Hospital blames it on our fast changing society. "Loneliness has increased. Most families are turning nuclear, which is further disintegrated with the spouse or children moving away for studies and jobs. Some families meet only over weekends or once a month," he says. And although we know many more people today, thanks to the reach of social media, we hardly have any emotional ties with them. "And this 'pseudo connect' with people lacks human interaction. We are losing the warmth, sharing and support required for social existence," adds Dr Dandekar. Stress is another contributing factor to the rising numbers of suicides and depression. "Everyone is part of a rat race,"says Dr Manoj Bhatawdekar, consulting psychiatrist at Juvenile Diabetes Foundation. "The self- esteem of a person is equated with the marks in exams or the financial position in society. There is a tremendous rise in materialism and little time devoted to self-development."

MYTH

Better paying jobs means more health and happiness Over the last few years, we have started to cater to an international clientele and most of us work long or odd hours. "This alters the bio rhythm and leads to changes in emotional patterns," explains Dr Dandekar. "We are imitating the West by consuming foods that are not meant to suit our bodies in these climatic conditions. All this harms the emotional health of an individual."

FACT Youth are prone to suicide The young and the restless is not a myth. It's the truth of our times. To add to this, over indulgence is becoming a part of our existence. "We don't take disappointment in good stride. We give children things even before they ask for it. Sharing isn't practised, they are used to separate TVs, toilets, telephones. This makes the young more ego centric and less accommodative. Parents bribe their children to make them do things without understanding ability," says Dr Dandekar.

According to Dr Bhatawdekar, "Besides, parents have become over aware and unduly concerned about the child's academic performance. They also feel guilty for not being able to spend enough time with their children."

MYTH Elders are more secure With rising cost of living, more and more elders are becoming financially very insecure. They are constantly worried if they can make do with limited sources. The empty nest syndrome is another cause of depression among them. "Most of them who are suffering from physical health issues often fear loneliness and suffering," says Thomas.

FACT Women are emotionally stronger than men The WHO report suggests that the ratio of men to women committing suicide is 2:1. "This is mainly because women don't internalise the problem. They are better communicators and often seek social and professional help. Men, on the other hand, tend to take refuge in alcohol, smoking, and playing cards rather than seeking professional help," says Dr Dandekar. In our society, boys are raised differently. Them crying is not accepted as manly. "They lack in communication skills. Besides, male ego is fragile, and is likely to be hurt more easily and more often," he says. That apart, as Dr Bhatawdekar points out, men tend to use lethal means of attempting suicides than women, which is also why the number of successfully committed suicides are more in men.

MYTH Barking dogs don't bite Suicide attempt is a plea for help. Acknowledge that behind every successful suicide, there have been several failed attempts. Never treat it as an attention seeking behaviour prima facie because even if it was hysterical behaviour, recognise that the victim requires professional help. "About 90 per cent of depression is curable through medicines, psychotherapy and electroconvulsive (shock) therapy and there is nothing wrong with them," says Dr Dandekar.

FACT There is less than one psychiatrist per 100,000 people It has to be ingrained into the minds of children that mental illnesses are real because the mind is a tangible part of our body. There is nothing wrong about having mental problems just as there is nothing wrong with common cold, says Dr Dandekar.

 

Occupational therapists, psychiatrists and psychologists must be available at offices and schools for ease of access and regular psychological screening and panel discussions must be conducted. "Even medical practitioners need to become more equipped to diagnose and refer depression to psychiatrists," asserts Dr Bhatawdekar. Read more here:graduation outfits

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