Mental health sheds light on suicide during the month of September. Suicide is not a new phenomenon to most of us, although tragic, we may have become accustomed to it. Local media coverage enlightens us about suicide incidents throughout the country where children as young as 9 year old end their lives. In such cases we are left pondering what could have happened that a child takes their own life. Some of us know of people personally that have ended their lives or perhaps we have even lost a loved one as a result. Global statistics indicate that 800 000 people die of suicide annually which is one person every 40 seconds. According Health Ministry’s report Namibia ranks eleventh globally and fourth in Africa meaning that as a country we have one of the highest suicide rates worldwide. However, it doesn’t have to be that way. We can alter the statistics on suicide if we can be attentive and reach those at risk early enough.
Indicators that someone may be seriously contemplating suicide
· A person threatens to kill themselves
· Saying things like “no one will miss me when I’m gone”
· Actively looking for ways to end their live such as seeking access to harmful chemicals, firearms, sharp objects like knives, medication or browsing the internet for means of ending their life.
· Subtle goodbyes to close family members and friends, giving away valuable possessions or writing a will.
People that are at risk of suicide
· Those who have previously attempted to end their life.
· Someone with depression or an alcohol or drug problem
· People who are suffering from severe emotional distress, for example following a relationship break-up or loss of a loved one.
· People suffering from chronic pain or illness such as cancer.
· Those suffering from Post-traumatic stress such as war veterans, abuse, trauma, violence or discrimination
· People who are socially isolated.
What can we do to help?
· Find an appropriate time and a quiet place to talk about suicide with the person you are concerned about. Ensure them that you are there to listen.
· Encourage the person to seek help from professional such as a mental health professional, counsellor, social worker or a doctor. Offer to accompany them to an appointment.
· If you think the person is in immediate danger, do not leave him or her alone. Monitor them closely and seek professional help from a crisis line, emergency services, health care professional, or approach family members.
· If the person you are concern about lives with you, ensure that you hide any objects in the home that could potentially be harmful such as chemicals (cleaning materials like bleach) medication, sharp objects or firearms.
· Stay in contact with the person and find out about their progress.
Important to know is that:
· Hopelessness ignites suicide
· But suicides are preventable
· And it is okay to have the conversation about suicide even if it’s uncomfortable.
· Remember, asking about it does not elicit the act of suicide rather it reduces anxiety and helps people feel understood.
If you know of someone who may be suicidal, talk to them. Listen actively with an open mind without judgment and offer your support. Namibia suicide hotline number 1800 or 911.
In raising awareness, if you have an encouraging story of surviving suicide or experienced loss to suicide kindly share @ firstname.lastname@example.org. Selected story will feature in the next edition of mental health conversations.
- Justine /Oaës can be reached at email@example.com