Suicide: nipping it in the bud

(Credit: Unsplash)

This article was exclusively written for The European Sting by Ms. Ayah Ayman, a fourth-year medical student at Ain shams university, Cairo, Egypt. She is affiliated with the International Federation of Medical Students Associations (IFMSA), cordial partner of The Sting. The opinions expressed in this piece belong strictly to the writers and do not necessarily reflect IFMSA’s view on the topic, nor The European Sting’s one.

How do you cope with feeling completely hopeless and alone in the world? When waking up seems like a burden you’re unable to bear. For some the answer is suicide, defined as the act of injuring oneself with the intent to die. It is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–19-year-olds. Suicide itself is only a small part of the problem, more people are hospitalized due to attempts, resulting in injuries and possible life-long disabilities. This shows that the burden of suicide is not a small one. Which leads us to the cardinal question, what drives anyone to take their own life by choice?

Suicide is multi-factorial like any other human behavior, the single most important risk factor is a previous suicide attempt. Other risk factors include but are not limited to:

• History of mental illness
• Family history of suicide
• Lack of access to mental health care
• Violent relationships
• Stigma regarding mental health and seeking help

These risk factors along with others interplay with each other resulting in suicide, therefore, for a successful prevention, we should aim to go for multiple strategies and tackle the risk factors at the levels of the individual, their relationships and their community.

How can a nation save its population from suicide? The following suggested policies are only a minute snippet of what can be done:

• Health insurance policies should cover mental health conditions (consultations, prescriptions and follow ups)
• If there is a shortage of mental health services, the use of telephone services, video and web-based technologies should be implemented.
• Putting to action policies to reduce access to lethal means such as restricting access to firearms, pesticides and medications. Security should be further reinforced in suicide hotspots (bridges, towers, railway tracks).
• Research has found that alcohol’s abundance is positively associated with alcohol-involved suicide. Therefore, policies such as limiting the density of alcohol outlets and increasing tax on alcohol should be implemented.
• Gatekeeper training, a gatekeeper is a person that interacts with people in a non-medical way. They are teachers, coaches, people of religion etc. They’re trained to identify the early signs of suicide and to respond effectively.
• Extensive follow up should be given to attempt victims the use of different modalities (home visits, email, phone calls). This is to engage them to continue their treatment.

We should also work towards reducing the suicide rates as a community. Engaging in community activities such as clean-ups or greening activities helps us connect with other members and socialize, reducing stress and improving overall health. Additionally, advocating for mental health services and treating them as if they’re the same as any other medical service in the community, this will encourage people to seek help when they need it and reduce the delay in providing the necessary care.

In conclusion, suicide can be prevented however, it will require extensive strategies to be placed and evaluated constantly to gain feasible results. Sometimes, even to live is an act of courage.


About the author

Ayah Ayman is a fourth-year medical student at Ain shams university, Cairo, Egypt. She aspired to become a neurologist someday. Currently, she works locally under the standing committee of public health and is passionate about creating a world where health equity exists and mental health care is provided to everyone with no shame or stigma surrounding it. Her favorite quote is “often the mightiest of things have the humblest beginnings”

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