By Gbenga Adebambo
“When people kill themselves, they think they’re ending the pain, but all they’re doing is passing it on to those they leave behind”-Jeannette Walls
Suicide don’t just happen; it is an accumulation of voices and expressions wanting to be heard in a very busy world! Mental struggles are real and can be so debilitating if left unattended to. I emphatically want to say that there is no man that is suicide-proof; sometimes it happens to people we least expected and that is why we need to be very sensitive to behavioral emergencies that always prelude suicidal attempts. There are some suicide myths that needs to be phased out as they have often contributed to the perpetuation of this societal ill.
They are: “Suicide comes out of the blue with little or no warning”, “It can’t happen to me!”, “Everyone who attempts suicide intends to die”, “I can never get to that breaking point where suicide seems inviting in my lifetime”, “Suicide is not preventable as the victim will always find a way”.
Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting worse, it only eliminates the possibility of it ever getting any better. Everybody has their hidden wars and struggles no matter how pleasant-looking they seem to be. Infact, most times our friendly disposition to others may just be the cover up that prevent people from seeing the underlying struggles and challenges. One of the hard nuts to crack is knowing what happens deep inside a suicidal mind.
The alarming rate of suicide, suicidal attempts, and suicidal tendencies is both disturbing and pathetic. Sometimes, I keep pondering what it feels like to reach a point in life when death seems inviting than life itself! The World Health Organisation (WHO) has expressed concern on the high rate of suicide among young people globally as a result of depression. According to the health agency, suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people globally. More than 800,000 people worldwide committed suicide in 2012, with many more suicide attempts annually. That translates into someone dying by suicide every 40 seconds somewhere in the world.
In Nigeria, a video which began circulating online on Sunday evening (10th of June,2018) stated that a lady parked her Sports Utility Vehicle on the Third Mainland Bridge and jumped into the lagoon. Social media was rife with stories claiming the lady committed suicide after her extramarital affairs were exposed, and that a DNA test conducted on her three children revealed they were not from her husband. Though, there has been various claims that the story could be untrue, but the issue of people jumping into the Lagos lagoon has been a recurrent issue over the years. Last year, at least two people jumped into the Lagos lagoon in a suicide attempt. During the same period, however, the police said it rescued a woman who, after being defrauded ₦18.7 million, tried to commit suicide by jumping into the lagoon.
That it seems well does not mean all is well. Anthony Bourdain, one of the most celebrated Chef in the world, author and producer and host of CNN renowned programme “Paths Unknown” was discovered dead some few days ago in his luxury hotel suites in France on a production visit. He hanged himself. Anthony is believed to be a successful fellow, perhaps the most successful in his trade. He enjoys a life many envy: touring the world, eating the best of every cuisine across the globe at the age of 61. He was living a supposedly fulfilled life until the tragic loss. Nobody knew that Anthony BOURDAIN has his own hidden BURDEN! Around the same time, another tragic loss took the world by surprise as the iconic fashion designer and business woman, Kate Spade hanged herself in an apparent suicide at her Manhattan apartment, according to New York Police Department sources.
Best known for its colorful handbags, Kate Spade New York has more than 140 retail shops and outlet stores across the United States and more than 175 stores internationally. One wonders how such an incredible and successful woman will ever thought of committing suicide!
With the recent spate of suicides across the world, there’s a spotlight on this major public health crisis. It is also a vivid reminder of how much more we need to do to better understand mental health and to take the steps necessary to prevent this tragic loss of life. “I am filled with profound sorrow since I heard about the death of Bourdain and Kate spade. Every 40 seconds, someone in the world dies by suicide. Each one is a preventable tragedy”, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director General wrote on his official twitter handle.
Many still wonder why Anthony committed suicide, and we may never know. However, his death is instructive. That friends smile and laugh when you talk to them doesn’t mean all is well. Many are dying deep inside and only cover the sorrow and pain with smiles. People that are suicidal don’t need pity, what they need is support and encouragement from people around them to enable them to heal at that moment. Reach out to friends, get in touch. Ask about their well-being. Ask about family. Ask them how they are surviving. Ask them if they have eaten. Don’t be too tired to ask. You might be saving a life!
There are many things that triggers suicidal tendencies in people, but the one that is mostly rated is depression. WHO says it is common for individuals with severe depression to think about suicide. Others are Individuals with severe emotional distress following the loss of a loved one or a relationship break-up, people suffering from chronic pain or illness, people who have experienced war, violence, trauma, abuse or discrimination, loss of freedom or other privileges, and those socially isolated.
People who commit suicide don’t want to die, but to end their pain. Don’t dismiss their talk of suicide as just threats. Anybody who expresses suicidal thoughts or intentions should be taken seriously. If you notice any signs that they may be thinking about harming themselves, get help. Suicide is preventable. And that starts with knowing what to look for and what to do. There are certain ‘behavioral Emergencies’ or suicidal tendencies to watch out for and probably escalate.
Warning signs that an individual is imminently planning to kill themselves vary but the following warning signs can mean someone may be thinking about or planning to commit suicide:
Depression: Depression is actually the highest cause of suicide. Depression has been called the world’s number one public health problem. Infact, it has often been said that depression is the mother of all oppression! The reason being that the oppressor is known in every other kind of oppression, but in depression, the oppressor is elusive and invisible. Depression can be treated and recovery is possible. If you know someone who’s depressed, help them to find suitable outlets, and expression in the best way you can.
Focuses on death: Some people talk openly about wanting to die or to commit suicide, or they dwell on the topic of death and dying. They may research ways to kill themselves or buy a gun, knife, or pills. When someone is always talking about death, then their condition must not be taken lightly.
Harming Oneself: Harming oneself is just some thoughts away from suicide. Self-mutilation and self-hate is an evidence to watch out for.
Victim’s mentality: People with victim’s mentality are prone to suicide as they always see themselves out-of-control in the struggles that they are passing through. They always believe that their problems are not their fault and always see themselves as victims of life situations. They believe strongly that someone or something is responsible for their predicament.
Makes suggestive plans: The person may take steps to prepare for death, like updating a will, giving away stuff, and saying goodbye to others. Some may write a suicide note. Most times, it has been ascertained that victims normally post their suicidal thought on social media weeks or days before the actual event.
Becomes withdrawn: The person avoids close friends and family, loses interest in activities and social events, and becomes isolated.
Shows despair: The person may talk openly about unbearable pain, or feeling like they’re a burden on others. Losing interest in things one used to care about or making comments about being hopeless, helpless, or worthless is a sure sign that the victim may consider a ‘dark’ alternative to ease out their predicament. They typically have no sense of belonging to a valued group or relationship, and they feel that they have become a burden to loved ones. Different people have different thresholds when coping with dejection, shame, bitterness, low self-esteem and failure.
Shows swings in mood or sleep: Extreme mood swing and emotional instability can be a pointer to suicidal tendency. Often, the person may be depressed, anxious, sad, or angry. Sudden and unexpected switch from being very sad to being very calm or appearing to be happy is suggestive of a person that might not be able to handle their inner battles. They also may be very irritable, moody, or aggressive. But they can suddenly turn calm once they’ve decided to go through with the suicide. Then they may sleep a lot more or a lot less than usual.
Substance Abuse (Drinks or takes drugs): Substance misuse raises the chance of suicide. Using a lot of drugs and alcohol may be an attempt to dull the pain or to harm themselves.
Acting recklessly or taking unguarded risk: Tempting fate by taking risks that could lead to death is a sign to watch out for. The person may take dangerous chances, like driving drunk, driving fast or running red lights.
Suicidal thoughts or actions are a sign of extreme distress and an alert that someone needs help. Any warning sign or symptom of suicide should not be ignored. All talk of suicide should be taken seriously and requires attention. Threatening to die by suicide is not a normal response to stress and should not be taken lightly. Your involvement and support may help save a life. Don’t be afraid to ask whether the person you’re concerned about is thinking of suicide, is depressed, or has problems. Talking about it won’t make the person act on their feelings. It might actually help ease suicidal thoughts and lets you know if you need to take further action.
In children and adolescents, bullying and being bullied seem to be associated with an increased risk of suicidal behaviors. Specifically regarding male teens who ultimately commit murder-suicide by school shootings, being bullied may play a significant role in putting them at risk for this outcome. Another risk factor that renders children and teens more at risk for suicide compared to adults is having someone they know commit suicide, which is called contagion or cluster formation. Children who have also witnessed violence or trauma are prone to suicidal thoughts.
The main risk factors for suicide are: A prior suicide attempt, depression and other mental health disorders, substance abuse disorder, family history of a mental health or substance abuse disorder, family history of suicide, family violence (including physical or sexual abuse), having guns or other firearms in the home, being in prison or jail, being exposed to others’ suicidal behavior (such as a family member, peer, or media figure), medical illness and so on.
It is very sympathetic that we live in a world where no one really cares until something dramatic happens. Take a moment and think about anyone who you know who may be prone to suicidal thoughts. The greatest lie to tell yourself is to think you don’t have such people around you. Suicide does not discriminate. People of all genders, ages, and ethnicities can be at risk. We are all connected to someone (a friend, a family member, a colleague in your work place, a neighbor, a classmate, a family friend, a business associate or even someone that you constantly look up to!) who is just moments away from committing suicide. You don’t need to wait for them to share their struggles with you because that might just be too late. So many people are suffering with no idea of how to begin healing. Take steps to reach out to others, it always worth it! Don’t postpone that call or message if you are led to intervene. What if today was their last day alive, would you do everything that you could to help?
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem! If you ever come across someone with suicidal tendencies, encourage the person to talk to a mental health professional as soon as possible. The place of spiritual interventions should not also be trivialized. There are supportive sites and resources for people struggling with suicide thoughts: www.sptsusa.org, www.afsp.org, www.jasonfoundation.com, www.suicide.org, www.suicidology.org, www.samhsa.gov, www.yellowribbon.org, www.spanusa.org.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “When you feel like giving up, just remember the reason why you held on for so long”-Anonymous