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Take A Minute, Change A Life. Listen And Save A Life!

Some myths are prevalent even amongst professionals such as talking about suicidal thoughts might trigger them but quite the contrary, it makes the person open up about these thoughts and their feelings

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How did the eyes full of dreams turn so lifeless
When did the light of life grow dim to the point of darkness
What made the feelings in you so voiceless
Why did the beauty of your life become so worthless

Lots of questions remain unanswered when someone takes the extreme step of ending their life. We may never be able to answer all these questions but we can certainly try to make sense of this rising phenomenon.

It is estimated that 3 people in Mumbai die by suicide every day. Every 3 seconds, a person attempts to die. This number is expected to be higher this year, owing to the decriminalization of suicide, leading to more accurate reporting. Suicide or self-harm, itself, accounts for an estimated 6% of all deaths among 15-29 year olds population and is the second leading cause of death in this age group after road-traffic injuries (WHO, 2014). The estimated suicide rates per 100,000 populations in this age group is 35.5 in India which is alarmingly high

Why are so many young people attempting to kill themselves? We are changing as a society leading to changes in the norms and social structure. Globalization leads to change in roles and expectations. The generation and cultural gap is increasing. We are becoming a more stressful, competitive and performance oriented society. Like it or not the access to technology and internet leads to information being readily available leading to more demands and risks. Keeping up with the changes can be exhausting. Adolescence is one of the most challenging period in life. Growing up is not easy. They are changing from being a "child" into an "adult". When did my little baby who needed me for everything and couldn't go to sleep without saying good-night change into this moody stranger who needs his or her 'own space?'?  It can be difficult to understand but they are in a phase of developing their identity, sexuality and self-worth. They are pushing boundaries and asserting their individuality. These are the formative as well as impressionable years when substantial physical, psychological and behavioral changes take place.

These changes contribute to many adjustment issues which may lead to mental health disorders. Many mental health disorders often first emerge in late childhood and early adolescence and may continue into adulthood. However, mental health disorders such as anxiety and depression in early adolescence often go undiagnosed and untreated, due to limited access to psychological and psychiatric services and substantial social stigma attached to mental health issues. Many times, symptoms are perceived to be 'just a phase' or general moodiness that teenagers sometimes are known to show. Peers take on the utmost importance and parents feel an acute sense of rejection and being left out of their children's life. Often self-harming starts as part of not wanting to be left out or due to peer pressure especially with children and adolescents with self-esteem of low confidence issues.

Crying excessively, spending lot of time by themselves, becoming more withdrawn, not enjoying activities that they were interested in before, not sleeping at night, increased anxiety, change in personality, academic deterioration and illicit substance use are all warning signs to keep in mind

One of the known protective factor in teenage suicide is Parental engagement what can we do as parents?

Be prepared for a rough ride and be calm in times of perceived crisis. Try to be non-judgmental and create a space where your child or teen feels he can be open with you at all times. Talk to them about their everyday life and have 'screen-free' times incorporated during your day. Teach your children to be responsible and intelligent consumers of media. Encourage your child to reach a decision based on carefully considering the pros and cons rather than making decisions for them. Don't be punitive about failure. Encourage their effort more than their ability. Let them fail and try again rather than not try anything due to fear of failure. Accept them not only with their strengths but also their weaknesses. If you are worried about your child, seek help at the earliest.

What can we do as a society?

We often hear that we have become insensitive as a society. We have lost our sense of belongingness. We often are so busy in our lives that we are not aware of the trials and tribulations of other people around us. Even when faced with a crisis, we sometimes feel unequipped to deal with it. Some myths are prevalent even amongst professionals such as talking about suicidal thoughts might trigger them but quite the contrary, it makes the person open up about these thoughts and their feelings. Quite often, we feel that we are not an expert but you don't need any special expertise to listen and be receptive

The theme of the 2017 World Suicide Prevention Day is 'Take a minute, change a life.' As members of communities, it is our responsibility to look out for those who may be struggling, check in with them, and encourage them to tell their story in their own way and at their own pace. Offering a gentle word of support and listening in a non-judgmental way can make all the difference.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house. Unless otherwise noted, the author is writing in his/her personal capacity. They are not intended and should not be thought to represent official ideas, attitudes, or policies of any agency or institution.

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world mental health day World Health Day 2017 stress

Dr Sapna Bangar

The author is a psychiatrist, & Head - Mpower The Centre, Mumbai.

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