Mental health awareness and suicide prevention are two of the many burning issues of the 21st century. With growing competitive spirits and ever increasing stress levels, mental well being is at stake and suicide rates are on a rise. The gravity of the problem increases with people in the younger age brackets being victimized.
Research shows suicide rates are more in the age group of 15-29 years than in 33-49 years. With no distinction in socio-economic class, community group or gender, mental health problems occur to all; and so do suicidal ideation and tendencies. Everyone, rather anyone nailed with stress is vulnerable to developing an unhealthy state of mind and pattern of lifestyle. However, it is seen that the burden of mental health and suicide is observably greater on women because of the lopsided work-life balance, abuse in various sectors of life, neglect and relationship issues.
The primary reasons for a disturbed state of mind are- bottled up emotions, negative thinking, lack of leisure time and increasing workload. Additionally, talking about mental health issues and suicide is a taboo in our society. With prejudiced notions attached and prevalent stigma against issues of mental health and suicide in the society, not many people choose not to talk about it. However, the need of the hour is to not only break the silence over these issues but even spread awareness so as to bring down the wall of prejudice. Depression, anxiety and other stress related problems top the list of mental health problems and these are also a leading cause for suicidal tendencies, along with relationship problems. Psychiatrists and other professionals have been urging to develop non-judgmental listening skills, ability to listen patiently, develop empathy make the victims talk and support them in their little endeavors to motivate them and help them rise above the victimization.
To raise awareness about the issue of mental health and suicides, Suicide Prevention Day is celebrated on 10th of September every year.
To mark this occasion this year, Sisters Living Works, an organization working to prevent suicides in the country organized an event at the Mumbai University Convocation Hall on 10th September which Safecity attended. As an organisation working on issues of sexual violence and how we can solve it, we believe it is important to look at and understand the various effects that sexual violence has on victims, including mental illnesses and in extreme situations, suicide.
With Dr. Harish Shetty, Mrs. Mrunal, Mrs. Subramanyam, Ms. Aileen and Mr. Rangnekar as panelists for the event, everyone contributed to increased awareness about mental health and preventive measures to identify suicidal ideation. The speakers enlightened the gathering about the alarming rates of suicides in the younger age bracket and importance of mental well being.
Here is a synopsis of the event and what the speakers talked about.
Dr. Shetty spoke about ‘mental health soldiers’- how one could become a mental health soldier and identify problems among friends and acquaintances, to fend off dire consequences of resultant depression or suicide. He also stressed upon the importance of talking about problems, understanding problems with empathy and building observant skills along with listening skill set to understand about others’ issues in a better way.
Mrs. Mrunal spoke about opening up and talking about bottled up issues. She emphasized upon doing away with ‘labels’ for people suffering from any kind of mental crisis as it was a struggle of identity for the sufferer, that only increased the baggage of problem. Highlighting the issue of ‘loss of role’ for the sufferer, she also pointed out the burden of guilt of suffering that the individual carries. She concluded with a note on reading between the lines, understanding the importance of body language and non judgmental attitude.
Mrs. Subramanyam from IPH, Thane spoke about emotional first aid, early intervention and was emphatic about the burden of suicide on women. Enlisting neglect, load of work, taboo and relationship issues among the several reasons for stress, she spoke about the mind-body imbalance and rising depression in women. Besides, she also mentioned the growing vulnerability of women due to abuse in multifarious forms such as that of financial, social, sexual and physical.
Concluding her speech, she spoke about simple measures to check for suicidal tendencies and lowering moods, such as- being on the sidelines, living with the person, making decisions for them, providing emotional support and non-judgmental listening. Adding to the end of her speech she also spoke about factors that led to self-destruction, especially in women, they were like- talking guardedly or ambiguously, negative emotions, ‘be strong’ attitude, withdrawal and importantly, she stressed upon to break the ‘superwoman myth’.
Further, Ms. Aileen spoke about the law and suicide. She drew the concept of suicide as an ‘intention’ and asserted the aspect of ‘instant decision’ that was related to suicide. Her short note on suicide came to a closure with her emphasis on humanization and decriminalization of attempt of suicide and motto of ‘promote life’.
Mr. Ragnekar was the last speaker amongst the panelists and he threw light upon the success of suicide prevention help lines. The leader of Samaritans, he was overwhelmed to see and share that the helpline saw youngsters enrolling as volunteers. He mentioned non-acceptance and relationship issues as a leading cause for distress among youngsters and urged the audience to develop an empathetic approach.
To sum it up, all the panelists emphasized the need to develop a keen understanding towards stress, depression or any kind of mental health crisis, inculcate empathy and a non-judgmental ear to people. Also, acceptance of an individual without labels and developing a more open mind to approaching mental health professionals unhesitatingly were also important subjects that were touched upon.
In an increasingly stressful world, where we are so vulnerable to mental health issues, it is crucial to break the silence and discuss mental well being without judgement. Victims of sexual violence are also prone to mental health issues after going through a traumatic experience but it’s never discussed or addressed properly. Dealing with any kind of traumatic experience is difficult, and many people struggle to get through this.
Therefore, in any case, we must remember that the support of friends and family, counselling and healthy, open dialogue about issues of mental illnesses become powerful tools in combating the problem of mental health issues which may escalate to suicides.