Brave enough to live

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FAISAL AKHOON

“NO matter what happens, or how bad it seems today, life does go on, and it will be better tomorrow.” So said Maya Angelou, an American poetess whose own life was full of struggles and abuse. So certainly, she knew what she was talking about.

Suicide is a subject that needs to be understood more than studied. To tide over it and help others tide over its momentary pull, it gets really important to understand its back story.

It is crucial to recognise that most suicides are driven by intense emotions rather than rational or philosophical thoughts. The journey towards suicide starts with harsh disappointments that fall short of one’s standards and intentions, leading to internalised pain and negative self-awareness. The desire to escape from this self-awareness and its consequences can lead individuals towards a state of cognitive breakdown, where they avoid meaningful self-reflection and emotion. In this deconstructed state, irrationality and disinhibition may make severe actions seem acceptable.

Our minds often get caught in a cycle of negative self-talk, replaying past events and worrying about the uncertain future. We contemplate our worth, competence, and the meaning of our existence, leading to existential angst.

Let’s discuss the factors that can help one tide over the fierce madness of taking one’s life.

  • You got to have faith, faith, faith…

Here, religion and faith play a peculiar role in coping with the uncertainty and the worrying. Providing a balming thought of acceptance and of not getting over-stressed and over-consumed by fears, conditions, can help us get more confident, more patient & stronger to face what is coming. Such a mindset motivates one to work hard and generates self control and competence. While coping mechanisms like meditation, exercise, or engaging in creative activities can be beneficial, others like excessive alcohol or drug use offer only temporary relief and can be very harmful.

We talk to some people who share their experiences and learnings during low phases in their lives.

Shares a third semester UGC student Faisal Hussain: “I sometimes get very carried away with strong emotions of disappointment and I tend to become very cold and pessimistic for a long time and that is when I begin to skip every outing and choose to be alone. Then slowly, I get back into my normal routine”. On being asked how exactly he copes with the uncertainty and pressure about the future, he replies: “I simply pray to Allah and ask for His refuge from everything that happens or happened. He is the Lord, our Creator and He knows what is good for us and what is not. He has already determined our path and we have to simply complete the quest. I am sure He will always bestow us with ease and I pray that we are able to appreciate the blessings bestowed upon us. Allah has plans for everyone. He knows and we do not. Stop worrying and look at those who don’t even have enough to feed themselves and they dream of what we already have in abundance”.

  • Heal and create hope

It is not enough to merely discuss how to prevent suicide; action is required. The key to assistance lies in hope. Feeling in control of our lives and pursuing a path towards something better are essential components of hope. However, many of us struggle with self-control, often due to believing lies about ourselves and neglecting our true potential. It’s vital to realise that we are capable of enduring more than what we may think. A quote by musician Tom Waits suggests that it is better to embrace our passions, even if they come with struggles, rather than lose hope altogether. This belief in our ability to control ourselves is a source of hope, but it’s not entirely realistic. Emotions play a significant role in our decision-making and actions, and we must acknowledge this rather than relying solely on willpower.

Dr. Aaliya Masoodi, a Kashmir-based psychiatrist, enlightens us: “Suicide is a complex issue that mental health professionals take very seriously. It is considered a major public health concern worldwide. Psychiatrists and mental health experts approach suicide from a multifactorial perspective, understanding that it typically results from a combination of psychological, social, and environmental factors. Psychiatrists view suicide as a tragic outcome of untreated or poorly managed mental health conditions, such as depression, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, substance abuse disorders, or personality disorders. We emphasise the importance of recognising the warning signs and risk factors associated with suicide, including a history of previous attempts, social isolation, feelings of hopelessness, giving away belongings, and sudden changes in behaviour”.

Dr. Aaliya further shares a way to approach such cases with immense patience and care: “The primary goal of psychiatrists and mental health professionals is to prevent suicide by identifying and treating mental health issues early on. They employ various therapeutic interventions such as psychotherapy, medication management, and support networks, to help individuals manage their symptoms, improve their overall well-being, and reduce the risk of suicide. Additionally, psychiatrics work collaboratively with other healthcare providers to create safety plans for individuals at risk and ensure they have access to appropriate support and care. I strongly encourage anyone experiencing suicidal thoughts or feelings of hopelessness to seek immediate professional help. There is no shame in reaching out for support, and we are here to provide the necessary assistance. In suicide prevention, the significance of social connections and support networks cannot be underestimated. Engaging with loved ones and support groups can make a positive impact on those struggling with suicidal thoughts”.

  • Stem the stigma

Dr. Aaliya further adds: “Reducing the stigma associated with seeking help for mental health issues is of utmost importance. By fostering open conversations about suicide, we can create an environment where individuals feel comfortable discussing their struggles and seeking assistance. And most prominently, hope plays a pivotal role in mental health and resilience. A hopeful outlook can positively influence one’s mental state, motivation for change, and the overall well-being. As psychiatrists, we use therapeutic techniques to instill hope in our patients, empowering them to believe in their potential for recovery and growth. For those facing depression or other mental health conditions, hope can be a powerful factor in reducing symptoms and supporting the recovery process”.

“I want to emphasise that these remarks are a collective understanding among mental health professionals, and each psychiatrist may have their unique approach and perspective. Suicide prevention and fostering hope are integral to promoting mental health and well-being. If you or someone you know is struggling, please seek help from a mental health professionals or a helpline immediately,” she adds.

Sometimes reaching out to others can be a lifeline in darkness, guiding them towards hope and light. Remember, “it’s okay not to be okay”, but hope can be a powerful force in our journey towards healing and understanding.

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