World Suicide Prevention Day is commemorated on 10 September to promote worldwide commitment and action to prevent suicides. On average, almost 3 000 people commit suicide daily. For every person who completes a suicide, 20 or more may attempt to end their lives.
Suicide prevention starts with recognising the warning signs and taking them seriously. Then, if you think a friend or family member is considering suicide, you can do plenty to help save a life.
It is estimated that approximately 1 million people die each year due to suicide. So, what is driving these individuals to this extreme and irreversible act? What is making them feel so alone that that is the only way they see out? To those not in the grips of crippling depression and despair, it may not make such a sense, but for those who have fought with mental illness, it may seem logical.
It is important to remember that even through all the self-loathing, hopelessness and isolation, the person is still deeply conflicted about ending their own lives. It is, after all, our most significant driving force: the instinct to survive. This goes against all laws of nature, and therefore the person in question wishes for another way to go.
IS PATH WARM
Don’t ever write off any suicidal thoughts or signs as paranoia or imagination. There are many symptoms of suicidal thoughts, some of them not too obvious. Clinical counsellors will often use the acronym “IS PATH WARM” to remember the many different symptoms of suicidal thoughts.
IDEATION: someone saying they are considering killing themselves
SUBSTANCE ABUSE: someone abusing alcohol, illicit drugs, or prescription drugs; or an increase in their use
PURPOSELESSNESS: someone who no longer feels they have a purpose in life and no reason to live
ANXIETY: someone experiencing anxiety at a level that impairs functioning, including problems sleeping
TRAPPED: someone who feels trapped and has trouble seeing the light at the end of the tunnel
HOPELESSNESS: someone experiencing the feeling of hopelessness
WITHDRAWAL: someone who is withdrawing from loved ones, work, responsibilities, etc.
ANGER: someone who is experiencing anger that has become unmanageable and more similar to rage
RECKLESSNESS: someone with reckless behaviours and high-risk activities
MOOD CHANGES: a noticeable change in mood and functioning
The picture in Namibia
Although 12–13% of Namibians are reported to struggle with psychological distress, very few practitioners are available to provide mental health services in Namibia. Furthermore, available practitioners are often trained from Western counselling, and psychiatric perspectives that may not readily align to beliefs about illness held constructed in Namibian cultures.
It is very likely that mental ill-health in Namibia is grossly underreported. Cultural taboos, misconceptions and stigma prevent many from seeking help. And numbers don’t lie: New statistics shared by the Namibian police with Namibia Media Holdings reveal that in 2019, a total of 486 suicides took place in the country. Iani de Kock, a clinical psychologist at Bel Esprit Clinic in Windhoek, said Namibia’s suicide rate is estimated to be double that of the global rate of 11 suicides per 100 000 population (we.com.na). Two years ago, a ministry of health study published reported that in 2015 an estimated 25 000 people were known to have attempted suicide that year alone in Namibia. In addition, a comprehensive study released by the health ministry two years ago found that based on available country statistics, Namibia is ranked fourth in Africa and 11th globally in terms of suicide rate per capita.
According to the same article: \”A man who identified himself only as Jaco from Khomasdal called into the public discussion … with a message of encouragement and hope. He said he tried to hang himself, which resulted in him being hospitalised and in a coma for three days. Following his attempted suicide, Jaco says the state offered counselling services and medicine and that he has mostly recovered from his ordeal and is feeling better and more hopeful. At the end of the day, we need to understand it is a sickness; it’s not a thing you can ignore. You need to tell yourself, ‘I am sick’, and you need to get help. Seek help. That is the first and most important thing.\”
No matter how dire your situation is, reach out!
If you’re thinking about suicide, please read Are You Feeling Suicidal??
Visit this link for excellent resources.