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Reach out and save someone

If you never felt suicidal, that’s also a good reason to read this – for you are in a position to spot someone who is heading that way, and do an intervention

What if you are a successful film star, with the world at your feet? You date the most good-looking leading actors, command a good price for every movie you act in, and appear in ads for the most iconic products? Well, you can have all that but it sometimes comes with unnecessary baggage – a tendency towards depression.

Deepika Padukone had the guts to tell the world about her depression, and everybody stood up and took note. Now she promotes the cause from every possible platform, which is why she addressed a select gathering of Delhi’s Ficci Ladies Organisation (FLO) to do her bit for Suicide Prevention Week.

In Delhi, one can seek the help of a psychiatrist in his clinic or go to a hospital, treatment will include medication and counselling (psychotherapy). For those who need guidance before they step out, Fortis has a national helpline number (8376804102) where queries regarding stress and mental wellbeing are answered from 9 am to 5 pm. Well-known psychiatrist Dr Samir Parikh is Director of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Fortis Healthcare, where cases are handled by a comprehensive team of experts and behavioral psychologists.

“Ninety percent of those who died from some sort of mental illness suffer from depression,” he says. “While people tend to look at the proximal factors – the trigger – which leads to a suicide attempt, it is important to also look at the distal factors, the vulnerabilities which have developed over time.”

If you are helping out a friend or relative, your job is not over once the sufferer is in a doctor’s hands. It is crucial to develop a support system for a person you know who is depressed, and intervene effectively in a crisis to postpone the impulse. We all are busy in our own lives but if there is a support group, whoever has time can step in when the other can’t. The psychiatric drugs available these days are much more efficacious than in the past, according to Dr Parikh, and in the last decade the mental block about taking medicine for a mental disorder has reduced worldwide. In short, the pills work, so don’t avoid them if the doctor prescribes them.

The US’ National Suicide Prevention Lifeline did a study and found that for every person who dies at their own hands, there are 280 people who thought seriously about it but did not take the extreme step. One can’t pinpoint what acts as a deterrent, but experts say ‘connectedness’ helps. So if someone you know is withdrawing into themselves, refusing to attend social gatherings, make that special effort to draw them out. Identifying a vulnerable person is key.

The social narrative around suicide is also important. WHO has taken the trouble to issue guidelines on how the media, including social media, should react to an unfortunate event when someone takes his/her own life. There must of course not be sensationalisation, nor must the exact methodology be described, as this leads to copycat suicides, when those with suicidal tendencies identify with the victim and get ‘inspired’.

The deceased person’s social media handles and profiles must not be publicised. Their suicide notes and diaries must not be circulated.

What is more important, says WHO, is to focus on the bereaved. The idea is that a person who is contemplating ending it all must realise the effect this will have on the family and friends who are left to mourn the departed soul. They must introspect about where everyone went wrong and what were the signals everybody missed. In India, parents tend to force their children into careers that they might not want to pursue, which is why tragic reports of students who killed themselves appear regularly in our newspapers. If you are in a position to do so, you must intervene on behalf of the child and not just shrug it off, saying it’s a family matter. A life could be saved with your help.

As for those who are stressed out, there are so many ways to destress such as yoga, meditation, going to a spa or taking up a sport.

Dr Reshma is an advocate of wellness, prevention and holistic health. Instagram handle: dr.reshmakhattarbhagat