Take a minute, change a life



World Suicide Prevention Day is an initiative of the International Association for Suicide Prevention and endorsed by the World Health Organization. World Suicide Prevention Day takes place each year on September 10. The theme of this year is “Take a minute, change a life”, which marks the 15th consecutive year of observing this day.

As the theme suggests the day is about noticing what’s going on with your family, friends and colleagues – and yourself. It is about taking time to have a conversation when you notice something has changed with someone around you and equipping yourself to help yourself and others.

Of the 800000 lives lost to suicide every year, 17% are from India. 1/3rd of these are adolescents. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death among the age groups of 15-24 years and contrary to popular belief suicidal ideation can occour in children as early as age 8 years. It is a cry for help to relieve psychological pain. Girls attempt suicide more commonly than boys, however ccompleted suicide are seen more in boys. Common methods used are cutting, hanging, poison,jumping from heights, use of firearms.

Who is at an increased risk for suicide?

Anyone can experience suicidal thoughts during their lifetime. However certain factors make people more vulnerable to suicide risk. These are:

  • Mental illness –adjustment disorder, depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia etc
  • Substance abuse
  • Impulsiveness
  • Previous suicide attempts
  • Physical or sexual abuse
  • Exposure to a friend or family member’s suicidal behavior
  • Lack of connection to family and friends
  • Access to lethal means of suicide
  • Homelessness
  • Older people who have lost a spouse through death or divorce
  • People in certain professions, such as police officers and health care providers who work with terminally ill patients
  • People with long-term pain or a disabling or terminal illness

Warning signs of suicide- DON’T IGNORE THE FOLLOWING SIGNS!



  • Current talk of suicide or making a plan, even in a joking manner
  • Strong wish or a preoccupation with death
  • Previous suicide attempt
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Signs of depression, such as moodiness, hopelessness, withdrawal
  • A recent death or suicide of a loved one
  • News reports of other suicides by young people
  • Looking for a way to kill oneself
  • Talking about feeling trapped or in unbearable pain
  • Talking about being a burden to others
  • Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs
  • Acting anxious or agitated; behaving recklessly
  • Sleeping too little or too much
  • Withdrawing or feeling isolated
  • Showing rage or talking about seeking revenge
  • Displaying extreme mood swings
  • withdrawal from friends and family members
  • trouble in romantic relationships
  • difficulty getting along with others
  • changes in the quality of schoolwork or lower grades
  • rebellious behaviors
  • unusual gift-giving or giving away own possessions
  • appearing bored or distracted
  • writing or drawing pictures about death
  • running away from home
  • changes in eating habits
  • dramatic personality changes
  • changes in appearance (for the worse)

What to do when you suspect someone has suicidal thoughts or if someone is currently suicidal?

  • Let the person know you really care.
  • Talk about your feelings and ask about his or hers.
  • Make yourself available when needed.
  • Listen carefully to what they have to say.
  • Ask questions
  • Don’t hesitate to raise the subject.
  • Talking with young people about suicide won’t put the idea in their heads.
  • If you’ve observed any of the warning signs, they’re already thinking about it.
  • Be direct in a caring, non-confrontational way.
  • Take them to seek professional help as soon as possible.

What if you are currently having suicidal thoughts?

  • Tell someone. Whether you tell a friend, a family member, a doctor, your therapist or call your local suicide hotline, you really should tell someone. When you’re suicidal, the most dangerous person you can be with is yourself, so by involving someone else, you drastically decrease the chances of you acting on your thoughts.
  • Make your environment safe. Remove all things from your home that you could use to hurt yourself.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs
  • Whatever thoughts you are having, and however bad you are feeling, remember that you have not always felt this way, and that you will not always feel this way.
  • Get emergency help if your thoughts don’t go away.
  • Sometimes you can be in so much pain that even talking to someone won’t make you feel better. At this stage, the safest thing you can do for yourself is to get emergency help. Try and get a friend or family member to take you to hospital (you shouldn’t drive yourself); if it’s not possible for anyone else to take you, then call emergency services and ask for them to pick you up.
  • Don’t feel ashamed or feel that it is not a real emergency. If you feel you’re in danger of killing yourself, then that certainly qualifies as an emergency.
  • Seek long term help with a psychiatrist/therapist.

Caught in the web

  • The recent news stories over the ‘Blue Whale’ suicides has brought teen suicides into the forefront. Although the giant ‘Blue Whale’ seems like the proverbial red herring it has served as the trigger for an important conversation regarding cyber-bullying and its role in teen suicide. Thanks to Internet, even with the doors closed we can still invite the world into our home. As harmful as bullying has always been, what many adults don’t seem to understand is that it has moved to a dangerously different level now. Boundaries of social connection have been blurred and young people can connect with each other, support each other, and share their experiences immediately and constantly. As those boundaries between people have broken down, so too has restraint. What only a generation ago took days to get around school, now can take minutes. There’s little time to confront a rumor, to clarify a remark, or to stand up to a bully when negative messages get so widespread so fast and when the bully is able to be anonymous. There is a sense of obligation to teammates leading to formation of online cliques. Video game addiction is also common. A sense of belonging to an online community of gamers develops in which strong relationships and emotional connections are common.This coupled with the appeal of escaping to a continually evolving fantasy world leads to addiction to games. Highly additive video games such as online role playing games may permit players to express thoughts and feelings that they do not feel comfortable talking about (or do not the opportunity to express) in regular life. However, fantasy can quickly turn to a nightmare when online harassment begins. It is continuous, persistent and many times anonymous, in such cases, a child feels trapped. Keeping the lines of communication open is of paramount importance so that child always has a logical and rational adivsor to turn to, Educate the child about appropriate internet use and model proper internet use yourself.

By Dr Bindu Jadhav


Department of Psychiatry

K J Somaiya Medical College

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