Say “No to Suicide”!

September 10, 2022

World Suicide Prevention Day

Ramesh* failed his SSLC exams. He was worried that his parents would be furious. He thought that his friends would make fun of him. His confidence hit rock bottom. The thought of giving supplementary exams gave him a heartache. He decided impulsively to end his life. He gulped phenyl from the bathroom to end it all! His throat burnt like fire! He could not swallow any more. He started screaming in pain. He was rushed to the hospital emergency. By God’s grace, his parents prayers and doctors efforts he was saved. But phenyl had totally scarred his food pipe and he had to be fed through a nasogastric tube for 3 months. When the psychiatrist counselled him, he regretted the attempt. He said he was sorry and would never do it again. He had not imagined the consequences of his action. He put himself through so much of unnecessary suffering.

Ramesh is not alone….

Around 703,000 people every year around the world, take their own life. For every suicide, there are around 20 other people like Ramesh making a suicide attempt and many more harbouring serious thoughts of suicide. Millions of people around such attempters and committers of suicide suffer intense sorrow or are otherwise profoundly impacted by the suicidal behaviour.

Every suicidal death is a public health concern. By raising awareness, reducing the stigma around suicide, and encouraging well-informed action, we can reduce instances of suicide around the world.

With this vision in mind, World Suicide Prevention Day was first observed in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention and World Health Organization. On 10th of September each year, world suicide prevention day is observed and people focus especially on this issue, try to reduce stigma and raise awareness, giving a singular message that suicide can be prevented.

Creating hope through action” is the theme for the World Suicide Prevention Day this year. This theme is a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and aims to inspire confidence and hope in all of us.

As a psychiatrist, I look at suicide as a bio psycho social problem. There are obviously biological reasons for suicide such as untreated or partially treated depression. Even an untreated medical illness like hypothyroidism can make a person depressed and suicidal.

There is a psychological aspect such as loss, deprivation, trauma or failure. Personality and negative thinking patterns also play a role.

Then there is this huge social issue -acceptability of the act, religious issues such as suicide being considered a sin in certain religions (may be protective) determines the overall burden of suicide and its impact. In today’s world where perfection and wealth is celebrated overtly, people have forgotten to appreciate being normal and average. They have stopped enjoying the mundane things in life which need to be celebrated as well. Over-Expectations bring disappointment.

What are the risk factors for suicide?

1. Untreated depression
2. Loss- loved person, job, financial setbacks, and reputation
3. Stressful relationship issue such as a break up
4. Previous history of suicide
5. Family history of suicide
6. Substance and drug abuse - many patients report that they were able to have the courage to harm themselves only when they were intoxicated. Probably the logical brain was deactivated due to being under influence of substance!!
7. Serious illness such as advanced cancer and chronic severe pain syndromes where patients lose hope often.
8. Personality- emotionally unstable borderline type
9. Copycat suicide and suicide after a famous celebrity dies of suicide.

What are the warning signs that a person is suicidal?

In case of a planned attempt, there could be several indicators. Some of my patients have suddenly written a will, given away their most loved belongings saying that they would not need them anymore. Others have written a suicide note. Some families have reported to me careful planning of act when no one is around and when they could not be saved. A mother committed suicide after the husband left for work and children to school. In a severely depressed individual if there is a sudden cheerful mood, it could be that the patient is suddenly happy as he is thinking that suicide will end his misery. Multiple means may be used to ascertain death. Some patients go on an accumulation spree of tablets from different pharmacies just to be able to swallow a large number of tablets. If a person who is depressed consistently tells you that he has no hopes for his future, you can be be almost certain he is harbouring a death wish or a suicidal idea!!

Impulsive attempts are more difficult to predict. But unstable personality, being under intoxication and previous such attempts will be helpful to warn of a suicidal attempt. Many a times it could be unsuccessful as it’s unplanned.

What to do once you suspect a loved one is suicidal?

Well don’t leave them alone. The suicidal impulse is not permanent. Help the person ride it through. Listen to what he or she has to say. Harness the protective influences such as impact of his loss on loved ones. One of my patients told me that when she thought about her children, she decided she would not deprive them of a mothers love. Distraction helps too. A change of place may change the mind-set. Also remove means of harm such as sharp objects, shawls which could aid in hanging and medications which may be overdosed. If it is not a family member, inform the family or guardian.

Get in touch with a psychiatrist and initiate therapy and medications. Trust me - suicide can be prevented!

How to behave with a person who has survived an attempted suicide?

Be supportive. Don’t stigmatise and isolate him. Encourage to take help to sort out mental health issues by consulting a qualified person, preferably a psychiatrist. I say this specifically because diagnosing a severe case of depression is done more correctly by a psychiatrist and also in severe cases medication is a must, along with therapy.

Suicide is a serious mental health emergency. A psychiatrist, psychologist and social worker will be required to help the patient along with support from family, friends and work colleagues.

A few years back I had counselled a young woman who was on the verge of attempting suicide after her boyfriend had left her for another girl. She was heartbroken and had lost trust and will to live. She was from a broken family and had lost her job recently. She had refused so many proposals thanks to her boyfriend who ditched her after making false promises and also making her part with some of her money. So many stressors all together! Recently I met her in a public place. She looked familiar. She thanked me for helping her change her mind away from committing suicide. She smiled and asked me, “Do you remember what exactly you told me doctor?” I replied earnestly that I had forgotten and apologised to her. She refreshed my memory and told me something which i thought I should share. She said doctor you told me then that “Is it justified that you take your life if someone lets you down? You have no right to take your life. God has given this life as a gift and only he can take it away. You have to fulfil your duties till you live. There is no point in even regretting over a useless person who didn’t deserve you in the first place. Let alone lose your precious life over him. Don’t be irrational. Focus your energy on what you can be today and how much you can achieve tomorrow. Your failed relationships and troubled family don’t define you- it’s what you have within you, that’s more vital. You have within you to overcome this hurdle, solve this problem and emerge victorious.”

She said that when a caring professional can have so much faith that I could overcome my problems, I thought I might as well try!!!

So let’s look at difficulties as problems that we can solve, and depression and mental disorders as illnesses that we should treat. Let’s keep the option of suicide out and lots of hope in. Let’s be non-stigmatising to those who survived attempted suicide and inclusive in helping them build a tomorrow full of hope and joy!!

Let’s say “No to Suicide”.




By Dr Supriya Hegde Aroor
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Comment on this article

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai

    Wed, Sep 14 2022

    Dear Mohan Prabhu, I agree with your comments as I am a living proof of your views! Without delving any further, I am reminded of the acclaimed physicist, Werner Heisenberg's quote : "It's impossible to determine the position and speed of a particle at the same time....."

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai

    Tue, Sep 13 2022

    Dear Doc, It's an irony that many modern doctors cannot sense easily that the patient who presents himself with vague physical symptoms and his talks that he has at it's root cause some psychological problem like depression, anxiety, OCD, PTSD, etc! The patient is made to undergo all kinds of investigations and made to run from one specialist to another until nothing abnormal is found! I was one such unfortunate victim about 3 decades ago (was 18 then) wherein an FRCP also could not sense that the root cause of my physical complaints was a phobic anxiety-depression mixed disorder! He ruined my life by prescribing all sorts of drugs for my eating disorder associated with anxiety and depression ; he even prescribed nitrazepam at last for sleep which was actually a side effect of his strong medications; he even prescribed me Orabolin to gain weight! It was ultimately my little knowledge that I had gained from books like Science Today, Sputnik, Readers Digest etc that made me force my parents to take me to a psychiatrist who immediately diagnosed my condition as GAD; he prescribed alprazolam and some antidepressants with which I was cured, but he instilled in me the fear that you will have to take benzodiazepines for long looking at the level of my anxiety! Till today, I have not been able to overcome the anxiety and phobic attacks without taking anxiolytics! I was literally made a guinea pig by the physicians who initially treated me! I have much more to write, but am abstaining because of obvious reasons! I would say that today every person should be his own doctor by increasing his awareness and staying abreast with the current affairs in the medical field!!

  • mohan prabhu, mangalore/canada

    Tue, Sep 13 2022

    "Reducing stigma around suicide" - Dear Dr. Hegde. I didn't understand what you tried to say by these words at the beginning of your very informative article. It caught me by surprise, as the words can mean that suicide is not a bad thing at all. May be you agree with Euripedes who said millennia ago, that no person is happy until he is dead, and suicide will certainly be a last resort for those who cannot cope with the problems of life. It is simply not possible to delve into the minds of suicide-prone people - as they say, even the devil does not know what a person thinks!

  • Ashish Banerji, Navi Mumbai

    Tue, Sep 13 2022

    Awesome! Incredible indeed! Keep up the noble sewa to society. Our best wishes & blessings will always be with you.

  • Daniel, Ujjodi/Mangalore

    Mon, Sep 12 2022

    Excellent article. Need of this time irrespective of young, middle aged, sick , male, female etc. etc. I still remember a advt. used to publish by Cancer society. "Cigarette in my hand..........." to bring awareness about smoking. likewise more and more awareness is necessary to find solution for mental health is the need of the hour. People who are in problems must consult with either doctors, social workers, religious leaders (If they worth) before taking any extreme steps by remembering "EVERY PROBLEM HAS A SOLUTION" if you search for it or talk to some one. Expecting more and more short article to find solution for peoples problem especially from Doctors.

  • Asmita Jain Pangarkar, Wisconsin , USA

    Mon, Sep 12 2022

    Really an eye opener Dr Supriya! It’s really unfortunate that people don’t get help and emotional support around them at their weakest moments and succumb to suicide. This article will help the readers in identifying and preventing people with suicidal thoughts or behaviour and save the most precious gift of human life. Following.


    Sun, Sep 11 2022

    Remember if you think only you have problems then you are totally wrong. Every one have problems, I have problems, Bill Gates has problems, putin has problems Donald Trump has problems, Joe Biden has problems. Problems can be resolved, depression can be treated. But never think to Suicide because your life is very precious.

  • Dr Ananth Prabhu G q, Mangalore

    Sun, Sep 11 2022

    Excellent article doc. An eye opener.

  • Rudolf Rodrigues, Mumbai

    Sun, Sep 11 2022

    Very informative post by Dr. Supriya! But, most issues of total financial breakdown may not be solvable as the creditors will hound the victims so much that going underground or committing suicide is the only way out!! As Dev said most antidepressants and anxiolyti so themselves carry a side effect of suicidal ideation!! BTW, what mystery lies behind people getting attracted to particular suicide points for committing suicide, some are very famous?

  • Dev, Mangalore

    Sun, Sep 11 2022

    Informative suggestions & ways to overcome depressions causing suicidal tendencies by Dr Supriya Hegde. Some factors that can be prevented to stop these attempts- Social Media, or Main Stream Media always reporting these things & our movies & serials depicting these desperate acts which subconsciously might influence them to attempt this drastic step. Scriptures or incidences of people or prophet going through difficult times & sufferings but not giving up but having faith in creator finally overcoming their difficult situations might be an inspiration for those who are undergoing the same. Instead of keeping it inside they should share their difficulties with others to relieve the burdens might help them overcome the difficulties without resorting to the extreme steps. More publicity should be given to the phone numbers which are helping people overcome their desire to end life is another solution. Some companies like Glaxo had concealed the side effects of depression drugs creating suicidal tendencies 2 decades back & were ordered by US court to compensate the victims families. Thank you doctor for very informative article on the occasion of World Suicide Prevention Day.

  • Vincent D'sa, Dubai/Manipal

    Sat, Sep 10 2022

    Doctor, in most cases of suicide, the trigger lives with the victim inside the home. Everyone knows everything. I wrote a few times on this platform and outside on this topic. Despite enough efforts from various sources, the sad reality is that this act will continue to rise in future unabated . Unlike in the past ordinary people are not afraid of death.

  • Daniel, Mangalore

    Sat, Sep 10 2022

    Following, A Divine Angel's Solution for worldwide suicides specially young... “They use too many electronic devices, and that makes them very depressed. There is no one to help these people. Majority of suicides are by young people. The only solution for all these people is to teach them how to cultivate and touch the soil. The earth is healing. There is something in the soil that when they touch it and mix it, that helps make the person better.” ///// He continued, “Touching and turning the soil is good. All these electronic objects affect the mind and body of people. You’d better tell people and let them know how dangerous electronic devices are.” ///// As the angel was talking, he was tilling the earth with his hands. ///// “God gave the earth to people as a healing for them; there is something very special in it, a lot of goodness for your mind and body,”

  • Daniel, Mangalore

    Sat, Sep 10 2022

    Correct. Suicide is not a solution for life's problems. One can kill the body but not the soul as soul is eternal. So suicides are useless and need to suffer much much more than easier instant suicides afterlife as it is against life and God. Also Holy Scripture says do not fear those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. But rather fear Him who is able to destroy both soul and body in hell. So need to seek daily Divine intervention (apart from medication) in prayers than satan, which is one's own negative hopeless or completely lost hope self thoughts to overcome suicidal thoughts.

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