World Suicide Prevention Day: Take a minute to reach out to someone in need of help

By Drs Pakha Tesia & Sonali Shinde

World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on 10th September every year. World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) was first observed in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP). World Health Organisation (WHO) and World Federation for Mental Health (WFMH) collaborate towards this cause. This day is celebrated across countries to create awareness about mental illness and promotion of worldwide action to prevent suicide.
WHO released its first World Suicide report in 2014 – “Preventing Suicide: A Global Imperative,” which was aimed at suicide prevention and making it a high priority on the global public health agenda.
Why is it important to talk about Suicide?
As per the WHO, Suicide is among the top 20 leading causes of death globally for people of all ages. Over 800,000 people die by suicide annually, which translates to 1 person every 40 seconds. As per WHO data, for every person who dies by suicide, there are about 25 who attempt suicide. The global suicide rate is 11.4 per 100 000 population. Globally suicide rates are high in the 15-24 years age group and in this age group rates are higher in males than females.
Latest data released by National Crimes Record Bureau (NCRB) reveal that more than 1.39 lakh Indians died by suicide in the year 2019 of which 67% were young adults in the age group 18-45 years.Common causes of suicides among the youthwere family issues, love affairs, drug abuse and mental illness.
Suicidal behaviour is universal, knows no boundaries and it affects everyone. Every life that is lost to suicide represents a loved one to someone in the form of a parent, child, spouse, relative or a friend. These people suffer emotional trauma and grief in the aftermath of a death by suicide.
Why does Suicide occur?
Suicide is the result of a combination of multiple risk factors including genetic, psychological, social and cultural risk factors and life-stressors – acute or long term. Suicide attempt is a complex act, which is unique for every individualand which culminates in the end of life. Depression is the most common psychiatric disorder in people who die by suicide.
Is Suicide Preventable?
YES! Preventing suicide is often possible and each one of us is a key player. We can make a difference – as a member of society, as a child, as a parent, as a friend, as a colleague or as a neighbour. There are many things that can be done- raising awareness about mental illness, depression and suicide, being compassionate towards persons who are distressed and show signs of suicidal behaviour, and help to guide them towards mental health professionals. Prevent stigma against person with mental illness, suicidal ideation and offer unconditional help and support to such persons.
Sometimes people are unable to help due to fear of not knowing what to say or if they would make the matter worse. It is important to understand that there is no ‘formula’. Compassion, genuine care and concern and being willing to guide the person towards help are the key measures to prevent a tragedy. Simply being available as a ‘Listener’ will help the suffering person to open up and talk about his problems which reduces distress and restores hope.
Theme for World Suicide
Prevention Day 2020
For World Suicide Prevention Day, each year a theme is chosen which focuses on some aspect of Suicide which can be used towards education and prevention of Suicides. The last 2 years had the theme “Working Together to Prevent Suicide” which highlighted the need for communities and multiple agencies to work together for effective suicide prevention measures. In continuation, theme for 2020 is “Take a Minute”.
Take a Minute – to reach out to someone in your community – a friend, a family member, colleague or even a stranger – it could change the course of someone’s life.
Take a Minute to notice what is going on in your life, with your family, your friends and your colleagues. Take a Minute to reach out and start a conversation if something is different or odd. Take a Minute to find out what help is available for yourself and others in your area.
Take 5 to Save Lives:This is a part of IASP campaign that encourages everyone to take 5 minutes out of their day and complete five items – Learn the warning signs of suicide, learn how to help, practice self- care for own mental health, Reach out to sources for help and Spread the word about this activity. For further information log on to
RUOK? This is a conversation movement which encourages everyone to help break their silence and ask ‘are you ok’ to support someone who is in distress and help them with simple measures that could change a life. RUOK can be asked over the phone, email or social media and appeals to the youth for its simplicity and reach.
World Suicide Prevention Day 2020 and COVID-19
The COVID-19 pandemic has altered our daily lives and contributed significant psychological stress. WSP Day may be observed while staying at home and talking about suicide prevention to people you know or spreading awareness on social media platforms #WorldSuicidePreventionDay
A Suicide Attempt Survivor’s Message on WSP Day
Children and young adults suffer from depression. Do not misdirect focus on other things- studies, exams, marks.Try to understand your child’s inner thoughts and feelings, Family members should encourage children to express themselves freely. In case of suicide attempt do not blame the child. Do not ignore the suicide attempt. Get medical help from Mental Health Professionals. Hospitals and doctors should be sensitised to handle suicide attempt patients with compassion. Depression is a medical illness and can be treated. Psychotherapy and counseling help in recovery.
Suicide Prevention Quotes
“Suicide doesn’t end the chances of life getting worse; it eliminates the possibility of it ever getting any better.”
“Hey you, don’t be so hard on yourself!”
“Just when the caterpillar thought the world was over,it became a butterfly. The moment you are ready to quit is usually the moment right before a miracle happens. Don’t give up.”
(Dr. Pakha Tesia is President, Meghalaya Branch of Indian Psychiatric Society; Dr. Sonali Shinde works as Consultant Psychiatrist, Mind and Wellness Clinic, Shillong)

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