Suicide rates are increasing every year. On an average, about 6000 people die by suicide in Nepal. According to Nepal Police, 7141 people lost their lives to suicide in the fiscal year 2020/2021.
In a society where openly discussing mental health is considered taboo, talking about suicide or suicidal thoughts is inconceivable.
“Most of the people's attitude toward mental health is the stigma associated with mental disorders which is rooted deep in the cultural beliefs and myths about mental disorders”, says Dr. Kenison Shrestha, a psychiatrist. “Some people associate psychological distress with bad karma. Many consider individuals with mental disorders to be violent and dangerous. Mental illness is also considered as incurable or contagious”, he adds
Without openly discussing suicide, it becomes difficult for people suffering from it to ask for help. Lack of awareness also creates a barrier for people who want to help those in need.
Here are some things one can do if they are suicidal or to help a suicidal person according to Dr. Shrestha:
Some of the strategies to help someone who is suicidal:
1. Creating a protective environment: One of the most important strategies is the duty of parents at home, admin at office, teachers at school to create a safe environment with no access to lethal means among persons at risk of suicide. Availability of chemicals or poisons should be regulated and the pharmacies should be vigilant. At home, sharp instruments, medicines, insecticides, etc should be locked by a responsible member of a family.
2. Excessive use of alcohol is also an important precursor to suicidal ideas and attempts. Hence, this should be regulated.
3. Promote connectedness among peers, members of society or family members.
4. Other important point to discuss in suicide prevention is identifying and supporting people at risk. Even a single mention of suicide during a conversation or social media post should be taken seriously.
5. The most common cause of suicide is depression. Depression is treatable. Hence, proper identification and treatment should be promoted.
6. There are different mental health service helping to assess and deliver suicide care to the general public in Nepal.
For people who are suicidal:
1. Expressing thoughts and feelings to near and dear ones. Talking about suicide is protective. Anyone can have suicidal thoughts, hence we should not be afraid to seek help. Seeking help is not a sign of weakness but a sign of strength.
2. Mental illnesses are treatable. Take help with mental health professionals.
Signs that a person is suicidal:
1. Talking about suicide
2. Increase in consumption of alcohol and drugs
3. Self harming behaviors
4. Lack of sleep or oversleeping
5. Avoiding social interaction
6. Searching for and collecting suicide materials
7. Feeling of worthlessness or hopeless
“People are more verbal about their mental health issues nowadays, especially the youth”, says
Sudha Subedi, founder and CEO of Online Counseling Nepal. “In 2020, people of all ages and gender came to us for help”, she adds.
Youths of the nation are the most aware about mental health and its importance at present. However the older generation don’t see counseling and therapy as an option. “The youth have taken responsibility for it and have started bringing their parents to therapy”, says Subedi.
There are a lot of myths and misunderstanding regarding mental health and suicide amognst the Nepalese. People tend to not discuss it openly thinking that it might encourage others to do it.
“We need to understand that people don’t commit suicide suddenly. It is a result of a disease that drives them towards it”, says Dr. Shrestha. “Like all diseases, mental health issues can also be treated. A suicidal person can also be treated. It is a myth that they cannot change”, he adds.
September marks ‘Suicide Awareness Month’, a time to spread awareness about suicide and ways to prevent it.
Suicide does not affect those diagnosed with a mental disorder. It is therefore very important to encourage people to discuss it openly. “ There is no health without mental health. We shouldn’t label them as crazy or stereotype people with mental illnesses, but should use respectful language while talking to them”, suggests Dr. Shrestha. “Real life stories about people with mental health disorders should be shared. It encourages others to speak up and assures them that they are not alone”, he adds.
TU teaching hospital suicide hotline: 9840021600 TPO - Nepal crisis hotline