Dr Mona Nongmeikapam
We live in tumultuous times. Our beloved hometown is nothing like we know it since May this year. Four months and counting. Thousands of people displaced, countless missing. The loss seem too many to even enumerate: all worldly possessions, family, loved ones, friends and neighbours, homestead, personal security, certainty, predictability, livelihood, education, a personal routine…….. Businesses have felt the brunt, many a student missed important career timelines, families divided; health and hygiene have taken a toll. Rising mental health issues are yet another collateral damage.
10th of September every year is the World Suicide Prevention Day and “Creating Hope Through Action” is the triennial theme for the World Suicide Prevention Day from 2021-2023. Suicide is a major public health problem with far-reaching social, emotional and economic consequences. It is estimated that there are currently more than 700000 suicides per year worldwide. Every 40 second, one individual succumbs to this vicious pandemic and every 25 seconds someone is attempting to give up on their dear, precious existence. “Creating Hope Through Action” is a powerful call to action by one and all. It seeks to serve as a reminder that there is an alternative to suicide and that through each of our efforts, big or small, we can aim to encourage hope and strengthen prevention. By creating hope through action, we can reach out to people experiencing suicidal thoughts, show them that there is hope and that we care and want to support them. Through our actions, no matter how big or small, and not mere pamphlets and propaganda, each of us can provide hope to those who are struggling in our vicinity.
World Suicide Prevention Day (WSPD) was established in 2003 by the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP) in conjunction with the World Health Organization (WHO). September 10 each year aims to focus attention on the issue, reduce stigma and raises awareness among organizations, Governments, and the public, giving a singular message that suicides are preventable. Suicide prevention is a public health priority and urgent action is required to make sure suicide mortality rates are reduced. 75% of the annual deaths are accounted by the lower and middle income countries. This year, the National Mental Health Programme, National Health Mission-Manipur is collaborating with the Indian Psychiatric Society- Manipur State Branch and the Indian Medical Association-Manipur State Branch in observing this important day, especially in this dire of need. United, we must stand in this hour of need.
Mercifully, research indicates that suicide rates decline during wartime. The most likely explanation as observed by several experts for this decline is the greater social unity of societies during wartime. It has been heartening how our masses irrespective of class and age divide have come together helping out, providing relief measures, speaking up for their State and guarding their homestead. But the literature on the aftermath is equally disheartening as well. In tense civil situations like now, acute stress reactions, post-traumatic stress disorders, rising number of anxiety disorders and grief reactions are mental health sequelae we can be watchful for.
FEW THINGS WE CAN PRACTICE AS A SOCIETY, IN HOPE, TO REDUCE THE IMPACT:
1. NORMALISE HELP SEEKING
Depression is the leading cause for disability in young individuals and one of the leading causes of death in this age group. Yet, very often we find family members and well-wishers to “shirk out their blues”, or scold them for being weak. Many refrain from approaching mental health professionals and even if they did, they refrain from sharing their experience and very promptly discontinue the treatment on slight experience of well-being for the fear of being labelled. The moment we stop sensationalizing mental health issues and normalizing help seeking, we would be helping more people come out of their shells and seek the help they need.
2. PRIORITISE YOUR MENTAL AND PHYSICAL WELL-BEING
Tough times need tough people so it is all the more imperative that we take better care of our physical and mental health to be able to cope with the demands of the challenging times. So pray, exercise, eat right, meditate and above all, get that much needed sleep.
3. IDLE MIND, DEVIL’S WORK SHOP
Devil here being all the lifestyle disorders, stress, anxiety, fears and unproductive ruminations. Stay away from negativity. Channelize one’s energy to stay active, work, stay productive and contribute in ways individually possible to lessen the burden.
4. DON’T BITE OFF MORE THAN YOU CAN CHEW
Too much information, news, discussion or worrying if it feels overwhelming is best avoided. Plan, prioritise and take one day at a time, bearing in mind your personal limitations and self-care.
5. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS
We could complain of all the things we have lost or that could have been made better endlessly. Or take a moment, thank the Almighty for our families, for being safe, for the food that we eat, for all that we still have and for life itself.
6. WATCH OUT, REACH OUT
Being vigilant for those near us, lending a kind ear or convincing them to seek help, sharing a personal experience, empathizing or creating awareness in personally possible ways could all be actions we could adopt today.
Wars do not create heroes; they bring out the “hero” within you! Create a Mental Health Warrior within you, reach out, help out a person in despair. Create Hope through Action.
The writer is Assistant Professor, Department of Psychiatry, Regional Institute of Medical Sciences, Imphal and be reached at at: [email protected]