World Suicide Prevention Day
- Nishadi Samarasinghe
There are many allocated days in our daily calendar. People have allocated these days for special purposes. World suicide prevention day is a very important day, while we might think it is not a very important topic to discuss, I personally believe we have to talk on this. World suicide prevention day 2021 is nearly upon us. This has been an important year for awareness around suicide prevention as we have seen increasing visibility, events, action and understanding. September is a well-known time of year on the global mental health agenda. World suicide prevention day is observed annually on the 10th of September. It is organised by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) The main objective being, celebrating this day is to raise awareness across the globe that suicide can be prevented. Over 300 activities in around 70 countries in the past years were reported to IASP including educational and communicative events, press briefings and conferences, also including Facebook and Twitter coverage.
On the 10th of September 2003 World Suicide Prevention Day was first started by the IASP and World Health Organisation (WHO). The first WHO world suicide report was released in 2014. "Preventing suicide: A Global Imperative" which focused on suicide prevention and to make it a higher priority on the global public health agenda of the work. The IASP was established in 1960 by the late professor Erwin Ringel and Doctor Norman Faberiow to counter suicidal behaviour and its effects. It is a Non-Governmental Organisation that is concerned with suicide prevention.
We have all recently seen unprecedented change as we adapt to a world altered by the Covid-19 pandemic. Mental health has risen to global priority as physiosocial implications of social distancing, quarantines and other restrictions became clear. Every 40 seconds someone takes their life, that's almost 800,000 people a year around the world with over 75% of suicides occurring in low and middle income countries. Suicide is a global concern and a serious public health issue in every country. However, suicides are preventable.
There are some important points on how we know that someone may be suicidal. Being aware of warning signs can be potentially life-saving. Verbal makers are one-way of identifying signs of suicidal ideation. They may sound something similar to these facts, "I feel like you and everyone would be so much better off without me. I wish I was never born. I feel like I have no purpose. I feel numb." Verbal makers can be either active or passive and it is important to look out for both types. Passive statements should be taken equally seriously. Suicide for most is an unnerving topic. One that in Sri Lankan society and many others remain highly stigmatized and seldom spoken of. But in order to address an issue, it has to be acknowledged in the hope that creating awareness, in turn will help us look out for friends and family and ensure that everyone including ourselves have access to resources dedicated to suicide prevention. Suicidal ideation or suicidal thoughts is thinking about, considering or planning suicide. The range of suicidal ideation varies from fleeting thoughts to extensive thoughts to detailed planning. Most people who have suicidal thoughts do not go on to make suicide attempts but suicidal thoughts are considered a risk factor. Suicide contagion is exposure to suicide or suicidal behavior within one's family, peer group or through media reports of suicide can result in an increase in suicidal behavior.
We have to get more effective at preventing suicides. There are some solutions we can act upon. Don't discount their feelings, look at suicide as a cry for help, be a good listener, encourage them to get help, ask about their suicidal feelings, don't leave them alone, encourage them to see a professional and know that secrets can kill. The media also needs to reduce or eliminate all together the sensationalism associated with suicide reporting. They must avoid giving graphic details of the method used and avoid using words like 'commit'. Providing details of the mechanism and procedure used to carry out a suicide may lead to the imitation of suicidal behavior by other people at risk. Avoid simplistic explanations for suicide. Encourage public understanding of the complexity of suicide. Avoid labeling places as suicide hotspots. Above all, if a suicide helpline is given at the end of the report, it will help other vulnerable people with suicidal thoughts to make contact and prevent an impending suicide.
A renewed worldwide commitment to prevent suicides, "Creating hope through Action" is announced by the IASP as the New World Suicide Prevention Day theme for these three years. The theme has been both well considered and timely in it's pertinent call to urge people towards action, that they should all feel equipped, supported and inspired to act as they try to prevent more suicides around the world. In this way by supporting global and national policy changes, raising awareness, reducing stigma and safe conversations around suicide all with the next three years as they build on this theme. Strengthen their network and spread their message. They can move towards the world where suicides are not so prevalent. Therefore I think small steps together can make a change. We should always try to help each other. So let's move forward and help each other in generating awareness regarding suicide prevention.