How to prevent a suicide?

suicides

(Dan Meyers, Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Mr. Priyansh Shah, a third-year medical student at Baroda Medical College, India. He is affiliated to the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writer and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.


Close to 800,000 people die due to suicide every year, which is one person every 40 seconds.[1]. In the recent years there has been an astronomical rise in the suicide rates among adolescents and young adults. Globally, suicide is the third leading cause of death in 15-19 year olds, with an estimated 53,000 deaths due to suicide in 2016. [2] The lives of their families and friends are irrevocably scarred and devastated even long after the death of their loved one. These astounding numbers and the inability to implement timely interventions makes suicide a grave global public health issue which needs our attention.

Various factors lead to a person’s suicidal behaviour. Cultural, social, economical and psychological factors are some of the most important factors pushing people off the edge. Risk factors for suicide comprise of  previous suicide attempt(s), mental health problems and disorders, problematic substance use, inferiority complex, adverse social media influence, job loss or financial loss, trauma or abuse and chronic pain or illness including cancer, diabetes and HIV/AIDS. Most suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries where early identification, treatment and care for such situations is extremely difficult. Lack of awareness, knowledge, skills and resources are the main culprits.

All these suicides can be prevented. We could accomplish this by a bottom to top approach which involves interventions by the community. The community members understand the local circumstances and behaviours which could help them provide holistic care. When the community is empowered with appropriate knowledge they could have a phenomenal impact on suicide prevention.

It is important that the interventions are cost effective and practical to make them applicable to all communities. We could take the initiative to work towards a suicide free community by following the steps mentioned below.

Community Meetings – Community is an inclusive term which can involve workplace, residential and educational setups under a broad lens. The first step is to form a steering committee comprising of motivated individuals. When meetings are convened it is important to form a local problem statement followed by setting broad goals and objectives. After which the key stakeholders are identified who could assist with the interventions and engagement initiatives.

Community Action Plan – After identifying the major issues in the local community an action plan in accordance with the resources and priorities is created. This helps to develop an appropriate outreach strategy by involving awareness events, suicide prevention activities, motivational talks and other community events. The interventions must be monitored and evaluated regularly to understand the trends.

Feedback Meetings – It is extremely important to have the community’s perspective on the outreach strategies. Feedback would help to understand the percolation of the interventions and hence help to improve the current strategies.

Executing these steps could be difficult and time consuming but they would defiantly be rewarding. Let us join hands to save lives.

References

[1] https://www.who.int/mental_health/prevention/suicide/suicideprevent/en/

[2] https://www.who.int/mental_health/maternal-child/adolescent/en/

About the author

Priyansh Shah is a third-year medical student at Baroda Medical College, India. In term 2018/19 he was the national officer for public healt at MSAI – India and implemented 9 new campaigns with 200 on ground events with a total outreach of 23 500 people. He worked on IFMSA policy document on Mental Health, presented National campaign at Rex Crossley Awards at MM19 Slovenia. He facilitated SCOPH Asia Pacific Regional sessions at MM19. Is a Co-Founder of MyAlivio – a startup that aims to support elderly population to fight depression and loneliness. He also facilitated 3 national workshops on Public Health.

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