Updated: Sep 23, 2020
That act of killing oneself, to us, may seem rash, illogical, hurried, or sudden.
About 800,000 people die by suicide worldwide every year, of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India. Teens in India are the highest casualties to this alarming statistic with suicide being the leading cause of death according to a who report.
It is alarming that even with these statistics, we still collectively suffer from a lack of awareness in the area of mental health and understanding suicide.
The first thing to know about suicide is that it is not sudden. Not to the one who has been suffering from suiciding ideation. It is not that the person wants life to end but the Life that they are living is so painful that they cannot bear to live this one any longer.
Suicide has been described as a continuum that starts with thoughts of suicide. These thoughts, also known as suiciding ideation, is thinking about or considering suicide. The range of suicide ideation varies from fleeting consideration to extensive thought.
Suiciding ideation can occur when a person is no longer able to cope with a situation they consider detrimental to their very existence. The interplay of psychological, emotional, and/or environmental conditions can lead to this state of mind.
Edwin S. Schneidman, in his book, The Suicidal Mind, shares that “in almost every case, suicide is caused by pain, a certain kind of pain – psychological pain”, which he calls “psychache.”When an individual, going through mental and emotional turmoil, finally reaches a stage of such anguish that they feel they can no longer go on or in other words the psychological pain is too much to bear, it is in that space of despair and hopelessness that suiciding thoughts arise.
Upon studying over 700 suicide notes, Dr. Schneidman notes that in all those cases “there is unmistakable psychological pain.” He explains the stages of suicide in simple terms with respect to psychological pain. He observes that when the mind experiences psychological pain it “scans its options; the topic of suicide comes up, the mind rejects it, scans again; there is suicide again, it is rejected again, and then finally the mind accepts suicide as a solution, then plans it and fixes it as the only answer.” Suicide, to those suffering, is therefore seen as the only answer – the solution even. They are just looking for an end to their suffering and pain that has become unbearable.
The suicide continuum begins with suicidal ideation progressing onto planning the suicide and then attempting suicide until a successfully completed suicide. These stages can go unnoticed if we don’t know the signs to look for and therefore a suicide attempt or a completed suicide can seem to have occurred out of the blue.
The Suicide Continuum
A person who has been suffering from suicidal thoughts may have been suffering for a very long time. Suiciding individuals are hurting deeply and are experiencing severe emotional distress in their life. They report feeling lost, hopeless, or trapped. Studies have shown that 90% of those that have attempted suicide have given clues, either verbal or behavioral, indicating what was about to come. Yet these clues are sometimes easy to miss. Especially without the right information and resources.
The first step to preventing suicides is understanding. We can ease the suffering of our loved ones by beginning to understand and recognize the signs. Talking to them about suicide does not make them more likely to end their life. In fact, it helps them feel connected and less alone.
To the outside world, it may seem that the person has it all and is unable to fathom the reason or cause. However, it is important not to minimize or brush away a person’s emotions, they are theirs and it is their reality. What can you do?
Listen, Listen, Listen! Without the lens of judgment or advice, allow a loved one to just speak their heart.
Create a safe space for a loved one today!