Combating depression: Learn to spot and help a suicidal person

With live-streaming of suicides becoming shockingly common among the youth, it’s time to pay closer attention to friends and family members who might be hiding suicidal tendencies behind a normal facade.


Depression and suicide are words that we want to avoid. A situation where a friend or relative is depressed enough to be contemplating suicide may be staring us in the face, but we may play it down in our own mind and deprive someone of help.

While live-streaming of suicides may be attributed to a whole generation’s frenzied need to draw attention, it may also be a way of using online platforms to seek help — without appearing to seek help.

The Internet is inundated with websites and blogs that talk of ways to commit suicide — from painless methods to tutorials. However, suicide helplines have found a way around it. As soon as you search for “ways to commit suicide” on Google, the first result that pops up is a 24×7 helpline with an Indian telephone number and a website address.

Facebook has launched various suicide prevention measures that help depressed people reach out to others, and also enable other users to help those with suicidal thoughts.

Don’t be scared to seek help. Confide in family or friends, and seek medical counselling if necessary.
A suicide may seem sudden and, in some cases, inexplicable, as the person concerned appeared to have everything when they were alive. But that’s often just a façade. Psychologist Dr Anil Sethi says that the desire to seek attention through suicide or attempted suicide could be the result of years of neglect. “Every child has a different requirement. If comparisons are made between two children, it creates pressure. Parents these days are so busy that they don’t have time for their children and try to make up for it by giving them money. But this is the time when the person needs their family the most,” says Dr Sethi.

“It’s important to be observant. We must also build hope,” says psychologist Dr Anil Sethi
Experts say that one shouldn’t read anything and everything. Even if everything is available to you, you still have to exercise your discretion.
Approach with care and take the person into confidence. Let them know you are there for them.
He suggests watching out for visible changes in a person’s behaviour. “It’s important to be observant. We must also build hope. People with depression who have hope don’t commit suicide. Hope is a key factor [in keeping someone alive],” he says.

It’s also important to curb social media usage. Experts say that one shouldn’t read anything and everything. Even if everything is available to you, you still have to exercise your discretion. One shouldn’t spend too much time on social media. It must be balanced with real life. Social media de-addiction centres have been established in the US, and they might open soon in India — the work is under way at the All-India Institute of Medical Sciences, New Delhi.

Crushed by study pressure

Dr Sethi recalls a patient he treated: “I met a chemical engineering student from IIT Delhi a few months ago. His grades were dropping. His parents were worried, as he used to keep to himself. They contacted me for help. He refused to meet me the first two times. Finally, I met him at my clinic. The next time, we met at a café, as I wanted him to be comfortable. He cried a lot and told me that he didn’t like the stream he was being made to study. I had checked his Facebook profile to prepare for counselling. He had shared some posts with messages like “What if…”, “Is there life after death” and a photo of a burning candle, captioned: “How long would this candle last?” People couldn’t connect a bright student with such gloomy messages. I understood that this boy was suicidal, a fact he shared me with me during therapy. He gradually improved with counselling, took admission in a private college with the stream of his choice and is now in the US. I took his parents into confidence; without their support, even I wouldn’t have been able to help much.”

Overwhelmed by bad experiences

Charumitra Debnayak speaks of the phase when she contemplated suicide: “I tried taking my life after the death of my best friend, flunking an exam during the second year of college, and then finding out that my ex was cheating on me. It was all too much to handle. I was living far away from my family. My best friend was the only pillar of support. After she was gone, I was left alone to fight all the battles. I’d spend hours online, looking for the most painless way to end my life. I also believed that one had the right to take one’s own life. I often put up posts on social media, supporting suicide. I didn’t get it why those who chose to end their lives were always branded weaklings. I somehow thought it took real courage to put an end to your own life. Thankfully, one of my brother’s friends saw the posts and alerted my parents. I was taken home for a break, and my family took the help of a psychiatrist, who put me on medication. I resisted the treatment initially, but soon things started improving. I also adopted a stray dog who brought a lot of joy into my life. He changed the way I looked at life. I realised that looking for an escape by killing myself was foolish. Tough times never stay too long. One can always come out of them. You just have to keep the hope alive.”

Is someone around you turning suicidal? Watch out for these symptoms:

1. Change in appetite
2. No friend circle
3. No urge to talk to anyone
4. Retracting into a shell, withdrawn
5. Talks about death, afterlife
6. Social media posts on topics like death, end, sadness
7. Dislike towards things they liked earlier
8. Disturbed sleep
9. References in second person accounts about depression

How to help
Be loving and non-judgmental. Approach with care and take the person into confidence. Let them know you are there for them. Give them hope that everything will be alright. Be patient and listen to what they have to say. If you feel that your counselling is not enough, then ask them to see a psychologist, or take them to one.

Courtesy: Etti Bali, Hindustantimes