World Suicide Prevention Day 2020: Working together to prevent suicide — Befrienders KL

SEPTEMBER 10 — Step closer to connect someone to life and the help they want... the help they need. In depths of despair, when the thought to end one’s life comes, we should be there.

The “we” here is no more just mental health professionals, government, civil society, but each of us – family, friend, schoolmate, co-worker, neighbour. Everyone has to work together to stop suicides which are already at grave numbers.

Annually, close to 800,000 people die due to suicide. This means every 40 seconds, one person dies from suicide.

In Malaysia, the suicide mortality rate is 5.5 per 100,000 people. In a population of 32 million people, that would mean 1,760 deaths by suicide per year.

With each death, there may have been more than 10 others attempting suicide and many more who would have been affected.

The theme of this year’s World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10 is “Working Together to Prevent Suicide.”

Inter-organisational collaborative work to reduce gaps within the service provision for individuals who have attempted or those who are bereaved by suicide is needed. The message is clear: Suicide is preventable, and we need to work together to prevent it.

Government and non-governmental organisations in Malaysia have always been working together and complementing each other in efforts to create mental health and suicide prevention awareness.

And in this aspect, efforts are now underway to decriminalise suicide in this country. Just recently an unemployed man who was going through family issues was charged under Section 309 of the Penal Code which entails a maximum jail term of one year, or fine, or a combination.

People are afraid to admit to wanting to kill themselves and get the help they need. An act of an intensely troubled person is deemed criminal, when instead mental health support systems should respond quickly.

Reflecting on the fact that the loan moratorium which is part of the national Covid-19 Financial Relief Scheme will end this month, we can anticipate many more people who will undergo financial constraints.

Greater burdens and stresses are coming. So too should be greater efforts at reaching out to those who are troubled by this and other mentally and emotionally disturbing issues.

The International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) is putting out the call to "step closer"... to connect someone to life and the help they want.

By stepping closer we can:

  • become aware of those around us who need help
  • encourage those with suicidal thoughts to reach out
  • support those in need by listening to their pain

Studies have shown that strong social and family support is protective against suicide. Preventing suicide has never been a solo act.

Hence family members, neighbours, friends and colleagues need to move forward as frontliners in detecting and reaching out to those who have suicidal ideation.

Warning signs (Red Flag Statements) are crucial in identifying someone who is planning or thinking of suicide. They are:

  • Expressing comments such as “I just can’t take it anymore”, “I wish I were dead”, “There is no way out” or “All my problems will end soon”
  • Always thinking of dying
  • Having symptoms of major depressive disorder
  • Having “death wishes”
  • Settling personal affairs, tying up loose ends or saying "goodbye" to family or friends, or asking for forgiveness

There are many factors that increase the risk of suicide. A previous history of suicide attempts is the strongest single factor predictive of suicide.

For every completed suicide, there are about 10 to 40 non-fatal suicide attempts.

Following a suicide attempt, the risk to complete the suicide is great in those who also have psychiatric illnesses such as schizophrenia, depression and bipolar disorder.

Other factors include financial problems, relationship loss, family discord and other biological, social, cultural, psychological and environmental factors.

Media reporting of suicide deaths may also be associated with a subsequent increase in suicides in the general population. Media reports of celebrity suicides that included the method of suicide were associated with a 30 per cent increase in suicides by the same method.

Responsible and sensitive media reports are needed to help people see how others have managed.

Life is precious. Collectively, we can make a difference.

Step Closer  is a short film by IASP about the physical metaphor that "every step closer can connect someone to life."

* Befrienders Kuala Lumpur operates a 24-hour helpline 03-76272929.

** This is the personal opinion of the writer(s) or organisation(s) and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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