Suicide—red flags, risk factors and prevention.

By Dr. Madhusudan Singh Solanki in Mental Health And Behavioural Sciences

Sep 09 , 2021 | 2 min read

Every year more people commit suicide than people dying in war. Every 40 seconds someone somewhere in the world is losing his/her life to suicide

What we need to understand on world suicide prevention day is that majority of suicides are preventable.  Although a suicide is a complex event and it’s not most of the time possible to pinpoint a reason as to why someone took his/her life but research says that mental health disorders are an underlying factor in 70-90% of suicides. Depression is a major underlying disorder along with alcohol and substance use, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and personality disorders amongst others.

Risk factors for suicide also include social and financial difficulties, relational problems, history of physical or sexual abuse, significant trauma or loss, severe debilitating physical illness or pain and poor coping and stress management skills.

As mental health disorders are treatable, proper and timely treatment of mental health conditions can prevent a lot of suicides from taking place.

Red flags for imminent suicide

Person giving direct verbal indications like “I am planning to kill myself” .

Or giving indirect verbal indications as “it will all be fine if I just don’t exist” or “there is no point in life anymore”

Other red flags are – sudden changes in behaviour like withdrawn, aloof behaviour or restlessness and agitation, feelings or thoughts indicating hopelessness, or a loss of sense of purpose or not having a reason to live, feeling trapped,  increase in use of substance or alcohol, writing or sharing about suicide or related themes on social media, behaviour indicating efforts to access lethal means to end life like weapons or poisonous substances and presence of other risk factors as mentioned above.

What to do if you know someone who is exhibiting the risk factors or red flags for suicide?

Never take a suicidal or death wish lightly---talk about it, fact is-- asking directly about suicidal thoughts is known to reduce the risk.

 Do not leave the person alone and facilitate further help through by getting the person  in touch with mental health care professionals and other suicide prevention resources.

We as a society need to shed the stigma attached to mental health issues, so that people can seek help, can talk about it freely and take treatment.

In the long run to prevent suicides--

We need to improve mental health care availability and acceptability in the society.

We need to strive for socio-economic stability in society.

There is a need to work on improving coping skills and stress- management skills right from childhood so that people can manage stressful situations in a better way.

Our society needs to come together to make suicide prevention a reality. Do your bit- spread the awareness.