Mental health: How can you help suicidal people?

Mental health: How can you help suicidal people?

It is essential to follow these tips to ensure your vulnerable loved ones are safe

Dr Satish Kumar CRUpdated: Sunday, September 12, 2021, 09:27 AM IST

Bengaluru: Suicide is one of the leading causes of death globally, accounting for one in every 100 deaths. Life lost due to suicide is higher than deaths caused due to diseases such as malaria, HIV, breast cancer, etc or by war. In India, around 1,39,123 people were reported to die by suicide in 2019. The major triggers for these suicides were attributed to family problems and health conditions followed by drug abuse, marital problems, love failure, so on and so forth.

The number of suicides has been reported to increase by about 67.7% as reported by online news media during the COVID-19 pandemic owing to the loss of jobs, stress, fear of getting infected by the virus, loneliness, among many others. September 10th of every year is celebrated as the World Suicide Prevention Day to raise awareness about suicide and suicidal behaviour to reduce the suicide rates worldwide.

Triggers for suicide

No single cause can be attributed to suicidal tendencies. However, suicidal thoughts or tendencies are primarily owing to the victim’s inability to accept or adapt to the current situation and they strongly believe that ending life is the only way of ending the current misery. Identification of risk factors can help to prevent suicide through appropriate counselling or treatment. The most common triggers of suicide include

Previous suicide attempts. The risk of committing suicide is high in those who have previously attempted suicide.

The suicide of a family member or a loved one can increase the risk of a suicidal tendency among others in the family. The loss of a family member can have a rippling effect on those around.

Substance or drug abuse and excessive intake of alcohol can make a person hallucinate and may lead to suicide.

Depression: Signs of depression include being sad, bored, anxious, irritated, or appearing hopeless most of the time. Identifying these triggers are very important.

Bipolar disease: Suicidal tendency is common in people suffering from schizophrenia or bipolar disease.

Easy access to guns, knives, poison, etc., can induce suicidal tendencies in a person

Losses like love failure, death of a loved one, academic failure, financial difficulties, etc.

Chronic illness associated with unbearable pain can lead to suicide

Children who are bullied are more likely to have suicidal thoughts.

Depression or anxiety is not just mere thoughts that should be changed. They are psychological disorders which can be treated and a person can be healed completely from them. We should spread the awareness to reach out to mental health professionals.

Warning signs

Suicidal thoughts are not normal stress responses and indicate that a person needs help to cope up with the stress. It is important to call for professional help if you or your near and dear one exhibit any of the following behaviours:

Extreme mood swings

Change in eating and sleeping pattern

Talks about taking one’s life or revenge

Feel extremely depressed, guilt, shame, etc

Exhibit anger

Withdrawn socially from family and friends

Suicides can be prevented

Our little efforts can go a long way in saving precious lives from self-harming. Strong family support, moral values, self-belief and confidence, staying away from drugs and alcohol helps a person to deal with stress, without suicidal thoughts. Attempt to commit suicide is punishable in India by law.

Seek professional help immediately. If you or somebody around you has a suicidal tendency or if their behaviour is of concern, consult your psychiatrist right away. Patients with a history of bipolar disease, depression should be regularly counselled for living a stress-free life. Counselling can do wonders and save a life.

Call helpline: In case of distress or suicidal thoughts, seek help at helpline numbers to share your feelings.

Don’t be alone. Make sure you or the person of interest is not alone. Spend time and provide unconditional support to people in distress.

Constant care and non-judgmental support are very essential especially in those who are depressed and have a previous history of suicide attempts. Encourage them to talk about their problems and listen to them with empathy and compassion.

Keep guns, knives, or certain medicines like sleeping pills away. Ease of access to these lethal items can lead a person at high risk for suicide to committee suicide.

Exercise: A simple activity like walking in a park can make you happy and divert your mind from the thoughts of committing suicide.

Stop drugs and alcohol abuse: Drugs and alcohol abuse increase risk-taking behaviour and suicidal thoughts. Seek expert help or rehabilitation if you are unable to stop taking drugs and alcohol.

Addressing bullying: Kids should be educated against bullying and should be encouraged to report to concerned authorities for proper handling of the same.


No one is immune to suicidal tendencies. Some are more vulnerable than others. By creating awareness about suicidal behaviour, suicide can be prevented to a larger extent. World Suicide Prevention Day offers a great opportunity to raise awareness on suicide and stresses the need for proper supervision, unconditional support, and non-judgemental communication in preventing suicides.

(The writer is a Consultant Clinical Psychology, Manipal Hospitals, Old Airport Road)


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