To begin with, I would like to share a personal story with the readers. After a regular day at work, I was on my way to a dinner invitation with my colleagues. My phone rang as we were cracking jokes and having a good time, and I picked it up.
What happened after that still haunts me to this day. It was my best friend's roommate calling to inform me that my best friend had committed suicide. Within seconds, it was as if the world had crashed down on me, and I gradually became numb to everything going on around me—the jokes, the laughter, the music.
All of a sudden, I found myself being caught off guard by the cruel irony of fate with nowhere to go and none to blame for the loss of a friend I held dear.
At the time, all I could think about was 'why?'. Even now, months later, I am still puzzled as to why someone who appeared to be so happy and strong on the outside would choose this path.
To this day, I have a constant ache in my chest that often turns into a sense of regret, forcing me to wonder if there were any signs given by my best friend that I missed. Because I do not want anyone else to suffer the same fate, I am writing this article to inform the readers of some preventative measures they can take if they are concerned that someone they know may end up taking their own life.
According to World Health Organization statistics, approximately 800,000 people die by suicide each year, which translates to one individual every 40 seconds. Suicide was the 18th major cause of death in 2016, accounting for 1.4 percent of all deaths globally and there are credible evidence suggesting that for every adult who committed suicide, more than 20 others attempted suicide.
During this pandemic, the world has seen an unprecedented rise in the number of suicides and attempted suicides, serving as a harsh reminder of the importance of handling this issue with utmost urgency.
As per a report published by a youth organisation, 14,436 people committed suicide in Bangladesh last year during the pandemic. Based on available information from the Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics (BBS) from the previous year, the organisation also highlighted that the suicide rate has gone up by 44.36 percent in 2020 in comparison with 2019.
I believe that the deaths of the iconic band Linkin Park's frontman Chester Charles Bennington in 2017 and the critically acclaimed Bollywood actor Sushant Singh Rajput in 2020 have taught the world (perhaps in the scariest way possible) that everyone is at risk of committing suicide- starting from rich and popular individuals to someone who struggles to make ends meet away from the attention of the world.
But the following individuals are more vulnerable in this regard: those suffering from mental illness (especially severe depression as the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention found the presence of depression in approximately half of all suicides), those who have experienced a traumatic event, such as physical and/or sexual abuse, loss of a loved person, and war trauma, those who suffer from substance use and alcohol use disorder, those who have a family history of suicide, and those suffering from chronic pain, a disabling or terminal illness.
Prevention is better than cure, as the saying goes. Unfortunately, the only way to protect a loved one from suicide is to prevent it from happening. It is, in fact, a race against the clock in which even a one-second delay in recognising the trouble your loved one is in can cost you that person's life.
The first step toward prevention may be to recognise that a person is thinking about suicide in the first place. This process of identification is by no means easy because not everyone who considers suicide acts in the same way, but there are some behavioural actions that have been observed commonly.
The first sign could be if the person keeps talking about suicide, death, or self-harm. The second case is if the person tries to obtain guns, tablets, blades, or other items that could be used in a suicide attempt. The third indication can be when a person appears to be in despair, sadness, and a sense of being stuck with the belief that nothing will ever change or improve for him/her.
Take note of his/her feelings of self-loathing, remorse, fear, and failure as well. If someone starts giving away all of his belongings and preparing to protect the future of his loved ones all of a sudden, this could be a warning sign. A person's willingness to be alone for an extended period of time, as well as the cutting off of ties with family and friends, may indicate that he or she is feeling suicidal.
Unusual visits to friends and family members, on the other hand, can be an indicator as well. Another sign is if someone is saying their goodbyes in a way that they will not be seen again.
If someone suddenly engages in self-destructive behaviours such as substance abuse and careless driving, this should be another cause for concern. Moreover, upon being depressed for a long time, an unexpected calmness, happiness, and/or rage may indicate that the person has opted to end his/her life.
Sleeping less or too much can also indicate that an individual is struggling and considering suicide. Physical pain and discomfort are largely neglected as signs of depression and suicide. When anyone you know frequently starts complaining of pain, such as headaches or body aches, be on the lookout for other signs of depression or suicide.
If you come across someone who appears to be contemplating suicide, the first thing you should do is not leave the person alone. In the meantime, try to reassure your loved one that their life is valuable to you, and allow your loved one to express their emotions—listen to them, inform others who are close to that person of the situation, keep potential means of suicide away from them, and seek immediate help from a mental health professional.
To conclude, I would like to make an earnest request to everyone to listen to the cries for help before time runs out and you are left with nothing but a never-ending sense of guilt and regret for the rest of your life, as I am for the loss of a person with whom I was friends for nearly seven years and who was always there to support me in my ups and downs.
Arafat Reza is an LLB graduate from BPP University, UK.