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Recognizing the Signs of Suicide: Tips from a Psychotherapist

Tip #1: ALWAYS take the topic of suicide seriously.

One person every 40 seconds: that’s how many people commit suicide daily, according to the World Health Organization. Do the math and you have about 800,000 individuals who take their lives annually. 

The staggering figure, however, doesn’t come close to the number of people affected by the loss of a loved one through suicide. According to the International Association for Suicide Prevention (IASP), each suicide affects approximately 135 lives. This means 108 million people—from partners and children to parents, friends, and colleagues—are profoundly impacted by suicidal behavior, whether it be suicidal thoughts, suicide attempts, or suicide itself. 

Observed every September 10 and organized by IASP, World Suicide Prevention Day seeks to spread awareness on what possesses someone to take his or her own life, and what we can do stop the rates from rising. (Read: Liza Soberano Opens Up About Anxiety, Shares Tips for Good Mental Health)

According to Charles Patrick S. Gamo, MCouns, psychotherapist at Emmaus Center for Psycho-Spiritual Formation, the number of suicides has grown by 60 percent in the last 45 years. “But according to my suicide awareness and intervention training, it’s likely that there are 5 to 25 percent more actual suicides than there are reported ones.”

Patrick sits with My Pope as he addresses questions surrounding suicide, including what we can do to keep the rates from rising. 

Charles Patrick S. Gamo is a psychotherapist at the Emmaus Center for Psycho-Spiritual Formation. (Photo from CEAP Facebook)

What is the latest data on suicide in the Philippines? 

According to the WHO, as of 2016, the Philippines reported an estimated 3,700 suicides for every 100,000 people. But suicide research in the Philippines is incredibly limited, as the topic is sadly taboo. (Read: Diocese of Caloocan Launches COVID Hopeline)

We were taught that there is about 40 to 100 percent more non-fatal suicidal behavior than there are actual suicides. Behavior ranges from suicidal thoughts and making suicide plans to self-harm and non-fatal attempts. 

Who is more prone to having suicidal tendencies? 

Generally, people older than 45 or younger than 19 are more prone to suicidal behavior. More males have died by suicide than females, but females have had more attempts than males. 

Despite these demographics and statistics, the belief is that everyone—regardless of socio-economic status, race, sex, and age—is at risk of suicide. (Read: Nonie and Shamaine on mental health: ‘Parents should open their minds’) Recent research also shows that suicidal behavior has been trending in groups that are most vulnerable to discrimination, such as the LGBTI population, indigenous peoples, refugees, and migrants. 

Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

What triggers suicidal thoughts or actions? 

As mentioned, it’s situations of extreme stress. Kirk Strosahl, one of the prolific contributors to my psychotherapeutic framework, talks about three indicators of whether a person is likely to exhibit suicidal (fatal or non-fatal) behavior. These three indicators are problems that are unbearable, unsolvable, or never-ending. (Read: 3 Ways to Take Care of Your Mental Health While in Quarantine)

What can we do to help someone who displays suicidal tendencies? 

Beyond our need for food and shelter, we also seek to be seen and heard. People with suicidal thoughts and/or tendencies are going through a crisis, and want ways to solve their problems or at least ease their sufferings. If we can offer empathy, warmth, understanding, and support, we might be able to help them find more energy or reason to continue living. (Read: On Mental Health: How to be a Light in the Dark)

The simplest (way is to) ALWAYS take suicide seriously. Our culture and mindset need a paradigm shift of sorts—we joke about it, use it as attention-seeking behavior, or treat it as taboo and never talk about it. Suicide is a serious problem that we all need to talk about seriously and learn to address better. 

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

What would you tell someone who is struggling with suicidal thoughts? 

You need to know that you are not alone. There are places you can go to get the right help, whether it’s your family, friends, or a professional. Things might seem desperate now, and they may have been for a while. You might be tired of having tried everything to get through what you’re going through, and you might think that this is the only option left, but there are still more, unexplored ways out of this. You need only reach out. (Read: 5 Easy Ways to ‘Be There’ For A Loved One With Depression)

Where can people dealing with suicidal tendencies turn to for help?

Here’s a list of places people can call in the event of a mental health emergency/crisis:

  • National Center for Mental Health Crisis Hotline: (0917) 899-8727 (mobile) or 7798-9827 (landline)
  • Natasha Goulbourn Foundation: (0917) 558-4673 (mobile)
  • InTouch Community Services: 8893-7603 (landline) or (0917) 800-1123 or (0922) 893-8944 (mobile). 

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