The George Institute For Global Health
United Kingdom

Dr. Pallab Maulik writes on Suicide Prevention

Dr Pallab Maulik, Deputy Director and Head of Research at The George Institute for Global Health India writes on

Suicide PreventionTake a minute, change a life.

In India over 10% of adults suffer from mental disorders.This figure is even more alarming when it comes to adolescents and youth. As per the Global Burden of Diseases (GBD) data, mental health/ suicide is the top reason for mortality among older adolescent girls and the figure remains among the top causes of death in boys as well. Adolescent committing suicides due to depression is increasing at an alarming rate in our country. Various factors such academic pressures, personal relationship breakups, pressures at work, interpersonal violence and intimate partner violence are some key reasons for depression amongst adolescents and young adults. Alcohol and drug abuse are some other factors that affect mental health well-being. Thus, addressing such issues is the need of the hour to prevent the rising number of deaths due to suicide in India.

The magnitude of this number can be put into perspective when we consider that this roughly equals half the population of the United States of America. However, research shows that only 1 in every 27 people with mental disorders receive any care, in countries like India. Lack of trained mental health professionals, lack of adequate inpatient facilities, poor awareness about mental health and stigma related to seeking help are some of the causes leading to such low level of care seeking.

September 10th is celebrated as ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’ every year and the theme this year is ‘‘Take a minute, change a life’. The theme focuses on the collective responsibility of the community to look out for people who may be struggling with depressive disorders, mental health issues and encourage them to tell their story in their own way and at their own pace. Extending support and listening to a person in a non-judgmental way can make difference.

The primary objective of this slogan to is come out and talk about one’s depression and other mental disorders, to overcome the stigma associated with help seeking for mental disorders such as depression and acknowledge that like other illnesses, mental illness including depression is just another ill-health and nothing to be ashamed of.

Dedicating some time to listen patiently to the person suffering from depression could change their life forever.  The key is to be emphatic and not be sympathetic. People in a depressive state of mind only need to be heard. Suicides can be prevented through various measures taken at community and individual level. Early identification, treatment and care of people with mental and substance use disorders is important. Besides listening to the person, observing sudden behaviour change and proper counselling, keeping person away from all drugs, alcohol etc. could help prevent many deaths due to suicide

The ‘World Suicide Prevention Day’ is a great opportunity and platform for us to address depression and the stigma associated with it and build a continuous momentum to spread awareness and compassion towards people suffering from depression. The George Institute for Global Health urges the community to lend an ear to the people suffering from depression, as a minute of listening patiently can prevent suicides and save lives.

And with the passing of the Mental Health Bill in the Parliament earlier this year, a much-needed legal hurdle has been surpassed in India for people suffering from mental disorders and those involved in caring for them or associated with providing services. Decriminalization of suicide, rights for determining future directives, provision of community-based care, are only some of the key positive outputs of the law.