He was a cheerful person, ready to go that extra mile for his loved ones, until his break-up. It hit him hard. He became a recluse, feeling more and more miserable as days passed by. He no longer believed he could be happy again. One day, he stood over the ledge on the 20th floor and thought of his lost love one last time.
She had everything going for her. She had money, she had fame, yet the feeling of emptiness that she always struggled with since the day she could remember, wouldn’t leave her alone. Her demons would not stop telling her that she deserved no happiness. That she is and will always be worthless. One day, she sat in her kitchen with the knife a whisker away from her wrist, wondering if this is the only way out.
She is happy as far as others can see. She has a loving husband, adorable children, a job her friends envy and an attitude of seeing positive in the most negative circumstances. Two months back it began with, “What’s the point of doing the same thing every day?” Despite taking up a new hobby it stayed and became, “I think it’s okay if I were to go.” One day, she bought a bottle of poison and sat down to write a last note to her family.
What makes a person think about ending his/ her life? What drives a person to the brink of suicide? What causes a person to go against survival, the strongest natural instinct?
In the aftermath of an attempted or committed suicide, we always try to find a reason that led to the act. We put the responsibility of suicide on problems, people or the victims themselves. We blame their relationships, financial status, work problems, troubled childhood and what not. What we don’t realize is that suicide is not a decision that the victim made, but a symptom of an underlying illness.
Though not always, the stress in a person’s life can be a trigger. However, the idea and execution of suicide is born in the person’s mind. Not everyone in the same stressful situation contemplates suicide. Every brain is wired differently. To put it simply, suicidal thoughts occur in a brain that is experiencing a malfunction in its wiring.
Numerous researchers have identified this malfunction to be a state of low serotonin activity in the brain. Most commonly, this happens due to depression, a mental illness that has surpassed breast cancer as the leading cause of disease burden in women world over. It is estimated that one in five women may suffer from depression in their lifetime. Almost half of those may attempt suicide. And if you think being a man makes you less susceptible to suicide, think again. According to WHO, 80% of the people dying from suicide every year are men.
There are several other mental illnesses as well that cause suicidal ideations in a person. Most of these conditions are treatable and most cases of suicide are preventable. In essence, we can save most of the lives that are lost to suicide simply by addressing the underlying mental health issue in a timely manner.
It’s imperative that we get informed and talk about this issue. It’s necessary that we recognize this symptom and seek help as soon as we can. It’s important that we listen to others and help them get professional help.
A therapist can help someone go through a break-up without breaking down; a person can learn a different way of being and not feel empty all the time through professional counseling; low serotonin levels in a person going through depression can be corrected through medications.
You don’t have to be a doctor to save lives; you can do it by simply opening up your mind.
CSF 5-HIAA, cortisol and DHEAS levels in suicide attempters; Chatzittofis A et al
Preventing Suicide: A global imperative by WHO
WHO fact sheet I Depression
WHO fact sheet I Women’s Health
About the author
Dr. Armaan Pandey, D.P.M.,
Consultant Psychiatrist and Psychotherapist practicing in Mumbai.
He is also the Chief Psychiatrist and Trainer at Hope Doctors.