You matter, addressing suicidal thoughts to save lives

Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamuse Mental Wellness

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

Suicide is a leading cause of death particularly among young people in low and middle income countries.

However, for every completed suicide there are an estimated 20 more people who have suicidal thoughts and attempt suicide but do not die and can still be saved.

As we commemorate suicide prevention this month of September, it is crucial that we empower ourselves on how to recognise and address suicidal thoughts and preserve lives. You matter and your life matters.

Suicide is often the result of a combination of factors including:

  • Mental health problems such as depression and alcohol and substance use
  • Loneliness and social isolation
  • Grief and bereavement
  • Chronic pain
  • Exposure to physical, emotional and sexual abuse
  • Feeling trapped and helpless
  • Relationship difficulties
  • Financial challenges

What are suicidal thoughts and how can they affect me?

Suicidal thoughts are thoughts of dying or harming yourself. These thoughts can be active or passive. Passive suicidal thoughts are thoughts of wanting to die but not having any active plan to harm oneself often wishing that something may happen to them to take their life. Active suicidal thoughts are thoughts of wanting to die accompanied by active plans on how to harm oneself.

Consider the following:

  • Do you find yourself thinking of death as a solution to your challenges?
  • Do you sometimes feel like people in your life would be better off without you?
  • Do you sometimes wish you would sleep and never wake up?
  • Are you struggling with hopelessness and struggling to envision a future for yourself?

Suicidal thoughts will often result in:

  • Being overwhelmed
  • Hopelessness
  • Feelings of worthlessness, feeling like a failure
  • Emotional numbness and disconnection from others
  • Challenges talking about these feelings and feeling misunderstood
  • Fear and anxiety
  • Challenges sleeping and eating and self-care
  • Alcohol and substance use as self-medication

What can I do if I have suicidal thoughts?

  1. Find a safe place to minimise risk, this may even be a health facility
  2. Find a safe person to talk to about this feelings as soon as possible
  3. Avoid using alcohol and substances as they can affect your ability to make sound decisions
  4. Reach out for professional help for assessment on the factors contributing to the suicidal thoughts and to work towards a treatment plan

How can I recognise suicidal thoughts in a loved one?

  • Direct or indirect threats of suicide
  • Suicide notes or social media postings suggestive of suicide
  • Seeming like they are saying goodbye, giving away valuable possessions, making final visits and final arrangements
  • Symptoms of depression such as sadness or irritability accompanied with fatigue and lack of motivation and interest
  • Self-injury behaviour such as cutting

What can protect us against suicidal thoughts?

  1. Having a reason for living: this can be family or friends or purposeful, meaningful work
  2. Emotional awareness and emotional vulnerability: being able to recognise and express difficult emotions in a healthy manner.
  3. A strong support network: this will help fight the challenges of loneliness and social isolation. Feeling connected to others is a key protection against suicide.
  4. Having access to appropriate mental health care
  5. Decreasing access to means of suicide such as pesticides and firearms

If you or someone that you know may be experiencing suicidal thoughts, remember you matter, please contact your nearest healthcare provider and get help.

l Association of Healthcare Funders of Zimbabwe (AHFoZ) article written by: Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse, Consultant Psychiatrist.

l Feedback: (Dr. Chido Rwafa Madzvamutse Whatsapp+263714987729) ( ; [email protected])

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