According to the World Health Organization (WHO), approximately 800,000 people die of suicide every year, averaging to one death every 40 seconds globally. It is the third leading cause of death in 15-19-years old.
For the information of everyone, September is National Suicide Prevention month. It is the time for learning, eliminating the stigma and offering help to address this alarming public health issue.
Suicide can stem from different mental disorders; depression, bipolar and schizophrenia, etc. (READ also: Problems are only temporary: A look at suicide)
This means that taking one’s own life has no definite single cause.
Despite the efforts of campaigning and spreading awareness through the years, looking at the statistics, suicide rates are still unacceptably high.
The numbers could even rise due to the situation that we are currently in. In fact, experts fear that there might be a surge of mental illnesses in the near future. Although I applaud the causes that advocate for the awareness, I still feel that words remain empty unless put to work.
If we aim to enhance our preventive efforts, practical and concrete interventions should be considered.
As a mental health professional, here are my takes on how should suicide prevention be put into action.
First of all, it is vital for us to recognize that a person’s mental health starts forming at a young age.
The environment plays a large role in developing our well-being.
Unlike grown-ups, children are in a fluid state of discovering their personalities, making them at risk for stress and trauma.
Schools in particular should take part in educating children about mental health. They often emphasize on the physical aspect of the student however, there is little focus on the mental and emotional aspect of their health.
Mental health education should be mainstreamed in education and eventually mandate it in the curriculum across schools.
In this way, schools can make use of the time to build the children’s resilience and open mindedness. Mental health is something that all of us will have to deal with at some point in our lives, why not start early.
We often see mental health awareness campaigns on various social media platforms because it is the fastest way to disseminate information.
Did they ever consider those in the far-flung areas who don’t have good receptions on their televisions – or those who don’t have electronic media devices? Who informs them? Who makes them aware?
According to WHO, 79% of global suicides occur in low- and middle-income countries.
Mental health is often neglected in poor areas because mental health services are a luxury and inaccessible.
This is where the national and local government, and the health sectors should come in.
Mental health services should be integrated into primary health services.
With the approval of RA 10036 or the Mental Health Act, the government must realign their plans on rational interventions and not on non-confrontational solutions such as correlating white sands of Manila Bay to mental health.
Mental health services should be accessible regardless of economic status because receiving proper mental health care is a right and should never be a privilege.
Deciphering the root cause of suicide can be challenging but we can always focus on preventive strategies and educating the people. Asserting our concerns on social issues is fine, but action is what’s needed.
Awareness is good for encouraging people to seek help, but definitely pointless if there’s no help available.
Raising awareness is just the start of the process. I hope during this suicide prevention month, when we read statistics of reported cases, we don’t just see numbers, instead we see people, people who struggled during the lowest moments of their lives.
That’s when we appreciate the importance of quality mental health care.
While we’re waiting for those plans to be implemented, let us foster and build safe spaces where hope and healing can flourish. Preventing suicide needs more than just personal courage.
Our collective efforts will surely be substantive.