By Henrylito D. Tacio
“Suicide is a form of murder – premeditated murder,” explained Susanna Kaysen in Girl, Interrupted. “It isn’t something you do the first time you think of doing it. It takes getting used to. And you need the means, the opportunity, the motive. A successful suicide demands good organization and a cool head, both of which are usually incompatible with the suicidal state of mind.”
Suicide is one of the results of mental health illness. In the Philippines, around 2.2 deaths relating to suicide were recorded per 100,000 population in 2019, according to Statista Research Development.
In 2020, at the height of the pandemic, 4,420 people took their lives intentionally; in contrast, 2,810 deaths were recorded in 2019. The death toll made suicide made suicide the 25th leading cause in 2020, which was 31st place in 2019.
Some experts believe the figures are just a tip of the iceberg. “Certainly, the actual rate in the Philippines is probably higher, with many doctors agreeing not to report deaths as suicides because of the stigma. But even if we could get the true figure, it would probably still be relatively low,” Dr. Michael Tan wrote in his weekly column.
Dr. Dinah Nadera, a psychologist of the University of the Philippines’ Open University told the Philippine Daily Inquirer that based on studies made on 300 cases from hospitals and police reports in 2008 and 2009, suicides happened between 8:01 in the morning and noon on weekdays, “when other people were not around in their homes.” Least suicides occurred between 12:01 and 4 a.m.
“There is no clear and concrete answer as to what pushes people to end their lives,” states the MakatiMed. “However, it may stem from various reasons and factors, such as post-traumatic stress, financial distress, mental health problems like depression, and substance abuse or addiction.”
If you want to help someone who may commit suicide, try to ease the pain they are undergoing. According to the website of Makati Medical Center (MakatiMed), people who commit suicide often experience despair and suffering. “When it becomes unbearable, ending their lives seems the only option left to relieve them of their pain. It’s less about wanting to die and more about wanting to put an end to their suffering.”
Don’t wait for them to ask for help – just help them, no matter what. “A lot of individuals who contemplate and die by suicide get help before attempting the act,” MakatiMed says. In fact, studies of suicide victims showed that “over half of them sought medical assistance within six months before taking their lives.”
Be open-minded and talk about suicide. Some people believe that talking about suicide will only encourage it. There’s no truth to it. In fact, “talking about it is the key to eliminating the stigma,” MakatiMed says. “More importantly, it encourages people – those who experience suicide ideation, attempted suicide, families who have lost a loved one to suicide, and advocates – to share their story and defy misconceptions. This also encourages individuals to seek medical help.”
Know the signs and symptoms. Most suicidal individuals demonstrate observable behaviors that signal their suicidal thinking. Experts say some early warning signs include loss of interest in activities they were passionate about, increasing alcohol and drug abuse, crying, isolating themselves from friends or loved ones, inability to sleep or oversleeping, drastic changes in mood, and losing their sense of purpose in life.
Think ahead and try to stop them from committing the act. Drug overdose and self-poisoning are two of the most common methods used in suicide attempts. Violent methods, such as gunshots and hanging, are uncommon among attempted suicides because they usually result in death.
In the Philippines, a study showed that the methods of committing suicide included shooting oneself, 40%; hanging, 30%; poisoning, 16.7%; and jumping from high places, 13.3%. In 73% of the reported cases, suicide was committed in their own homes.
If you are working in the media, be responsible when reporting. “Media, as a powerful took means to transmit information and influence its audience, is seen as an effective tool by the World Health Organization (WHO) to responsibly report suicide, as current evidence shows there is an association between suicide content in the media and the risk of death by suicide,” the Department of Health (DOH) said in a statement.
Learn the basics as to why suicide prevention is not discussed in the country. Dr. Dinah Pacquing-Nadera, in a paper, “Suicide in the Philippines: A Second Look at Rates and Ratios,” identified three major barriers to the development/implementation of suicide prevention plan in the country.
These are: 1) lack of factual data to cite magnitude of the problem, hence, lack of evidence to support need and fund for program; 2) competing interests within the health system where budget is limited; and 3) strong Catholic faith which frowns upon suicide discouraging families from reporting.
Don’t ever think those who committed suicide were cowards and weak-willed. They are actually courageous and strong. “They are fighters who fought their own battles for months or years,” MakatiMed says. “Sadly, they can only fight for so long, especially when they are on their last string of hope.”
Let’s save those who want to cut their lives early. “Suicide is not inevitable for anyone,” states the suicidepreventionlifeline.org. “By starting the conversation, providing support, and directing help to those who need it, we can prevent suicides and save lives.”
Curtailing suicide is not a job for the health department only but for everyone. As the WHO puts it: “Suicide is a complex issue and therefore suicide prevention efforts require coordination and collaboration among multiple sectors of society, including the health sector and other sectors such as education, labor, agriculture, business, justice, law, defense, politics, and the media.”