Everyone has a role to prevent suicides

Suicide should be the answer or escape to any problem. One should always choose life.File pic

THERE is only one serious philosophical problem and that is suicide,said Albert Camus. Every 40 seconds, someone in the world wrestles with that existential question and chooses the other way as a solution.

The reality is grim. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reported that Malaysia’s suicide rate in 2018 stood at 5.5 per 100,000 population. The number could be an underestimation because of challenges in establishing actual cause of death and many intricacies causing barriers in reporting.

Nonetheless for years, many local reports and studies already point to the undercurrent of desperation. Alarmingly, in the Health Ministry’s 2017 National Health and Morbidity Study, suicidal behaviour from ideation, plan and attempt all show an increasing trend among adolescents

The WHO reported in 2016 that suicide was the second leading cause of death worldwide among 15- to 29-year-olds.

The figure accounts for 25 per cent of 800,000 people who end their own lives yearly. Also 79 per cent of suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries (including our country).Is improved quality of life in high-income countries associated with a lower suicide rate?

South Korea, for example, is a country known for its unprecedented economic growth over the last few decades. It has a huge increase in the number of suicides over the past 10 years,now the 4th highest suicide rate in the world.

Suicide is strongly linked with mental health. This year’s World Mental Health Day on Oct 10 focuses on prevention of suicide. To tackle this global phenomenon, a comprehensive multi-sectoral approach involving the government, civil society, community and media is needed. To date only 38 countries report having a national strategy for suicide prevention.Are we prepared?

Everyone has a role to prevent suicide. At the hospital level, when a parasuicide or self-harm patient is admitted for treatment, while providing time and space to heal we should not stigmatise, or be judgmental. This is because the strongest risk factor for suicide is a previous suicide attempt — relevant professional help must be sought to mitigate it.

Patients should receive proper mental health follow-up care and community support after discharge. Sometimes when a patient presents a myriad of medically unexplained symptoms, it could be a cry for help.

Symptoms of conversion are common in neurologic and psychiatric settings, affecting up to 20 per cent of patients. More so chronic pain, insomnia and depression could be signs of one being overwhelmed.

Doctors have to be aware and humbly admit that not all patients’ symptoms have a diagnosis. At times like this, the most we can do is to take time off from our busy work schedule to listen and try to understand.

We need more counsellors, social workers and volunteers in our hospitals and clinics. Each of us is a purveyor of our own heart and mind – it does not matter if you are hiding behind a mask of normalcy or suffering alone

Whether you are hanging on the edge or stuck in a helpless abyss; when you are lost in contemplation or forced to make a choice – choose life.

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