When Indian couple MS and SS came to Dubai, they had big dreams of getting good jobs and building a stable life for their only daughter. However, when their life did not pan out the way they envisioned, the duo found themselves spiralling into a state of depression.
The couple in their 40s were eventually found dead in their apartment recently, according to a social worker.
“Once it was time for their bodies to be repatriated, some friends and family came forward,” said the social worker, who assisted on the case. “If those people had spent even a fraction of the time with the couple, listening to the problems or comforting them, they might have been still alive.”
On World Suicide Prevention Day marked on September 10, experts are calling on the community to watch out for tell-tale signs and assist those who are likely to take drastic steps.
“Suicide is preventable and requires strategies at all levels of society,” said Dr. Mohammed Yousef, Specialist Psychiatrist, Aster Clinic, Muteena, Deira. “Everyone can help prevent suicide by learning about warning signs. If necessary, take the help of a psychiatrist or psychologist. There are even free telephone counselling hotlines in the UAE.”
A free mental support line launched by the National Program for Happiness & Wellbeing is available from 8am to 8pm on 800-HOPE (8004673). Residents can also send a message to 8004673 on Whatsapp.
As per statistics shared by Dr. Mohammed, nearly 800,000 people die by suicide in the world every year. This translates into roughly 1 death every 40 seconds. Suicide is the second leading cause of death globally.
Experts say that suicide usually stems from multiple factors rather than one single cause. “Mental health crisis remains the most common cause of suicide worldwide,” said Dr Zeeshan Ahmad, Consultant Psychiatrist at Sage Clinics. “Financial stress, bullying, chronic pain and health issues, loss and grief can all trigger episodes of poor mental health. A family history of suicide or mental health issues can be a risk factor. All these factors culminate in someone going into mental health crisis which makes the person think about taking their own life.”
Sometimes, some of the mental health issues stem from a tough childhood. Dr Gurveen Ranger, Clinical Psychologist at Sage Clinics gave the example of a client Maya (name changed). “She was a female in her late 30’s who attended therapy as she was struggling at work, experiencing low mood, anxiety and thoughts of life not being worth living,” she said. “Through the assessment process, we identified that she had a very critical upbringing, and a lot of pressure was placed upon her to perform academically well. She would be punished if she had not got top marks at school.”
According to Dr. Gurveen, the pressure became self-directed as Maya got older, and as an adult she would be very critical of herself, often overworking and isolating herself socially. “We used a Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) approach to help Maya understand how she may have developed specific unhelpful beliefs about herself,” she said, “Over the course of therapy, Maya learned that she was just as good and likeable as everyone else in her circle, and that everyone makes mistakes sometimes.”
How to help
Dr. Gurveen and Dr. Zeeshan shared tips on how to help those with suicidal tendencies:
If you suspect someone is in crisis, have a conversation about your concerns as soon as possible where you won’t be interrupted and are in a safe space. Many individuals who are struggling with suicidal thoughts may be relieved that someone cares enough to ask, and it can be a crucial first step in getting them the help they need.
Listen to them attentively without judgement. Allow them to express their feelings and thoughts and avoid minimizing their emotions. It is also very important that we are not hesitant or shy to ask the person directly if they are thinking about suicide.
A person in crisis needs to feel that his/her feelings and experiences are being validated and that ‘it must be so hard and difficult to feel like this’.
Whilst you are trying to help a person in crisis, it’s important that you maintain a calm demeanour and reassure the person that you care about their well-being.
Seek professional help
If someone does express thoughts of suicide, take their words seriously and encourage them to seek professional help immediately. It is important that you are not trying to help the person alone, as this can be overwhelming and a lot of pressure to hold.
Remove access to any means the person might use or has said they may use to harm themselves with.
Continue to check in on them regularly. Isolation can worsen mental health issues, so maintaining a supportive presence can be crucial. Encourage the person to reach out to trusted friends or family members for additional support.
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