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Suicides stifle the future of social progress

Causes of Suicide. (Infographics by Nikita Patel) (Make this the featured photo)

Dr Malini Yugendran

Auckland, January 19, 2023

The World Health Organisation website states that “Suicide is the fourth leading cause of death among 15–29-year-olds.”

New Zealand has the highest rate of adolescent suicide among 41 OECD/EU nations, particularly among teens aged 15 to 19.

The 2019 Youth Rangatahi Smart Survey reported that 20.8% of the 7311 polled reported suicidal thoughts, while 6.3% had attempted suicide. That equates to around 460 adolescents admitting to attempting suicide in 2019.

The Chief Corner’s Office report of October 2022, states that the number of suspected was 538 during the financial year ending June 2022. Though this is the third year in a row, that there has been a year-on-year reduction in suspected suicides, it still has a devastating impact on whānau, friends and wider communities.

DJ Sathiya hosting a stage event (Photo: Supplied)

Suicide survivor’s story

Indian Newslink spoke to Sathiyaselan Sivalingam, also known as Dj Sathiya, a popular DJ and television personality in Singapore to understand what it means to have attempted suicide.

“I had made two attempts to take my own life in the past. I was in my 20s when I first attempted suicide. It was because of relationship issues, and I felt like I had no reason to live.”

“On that dreadful day, I remember begging my partner to not leave me. I was so desperate that I had one leg out on the parapet of my sixth-floor flat. I was nervous and scared. I called out to my girl who was walking away from me. She turned around, looked at me and told me, ‘Jump’ before walking away. That is when it struck me that I should not be wasting my life for someone who does not even care for me,” said Mr Sivalingam.

He added, “similarly, the second attempt was also when a two-year relationship failed after engagement. At that point, I did not even understand that I was going through depression and anxiety. I had taken to smoking and drinking extensively.”

Mr Sivalingam said, “I was experiencing a range of intense and overwhelming emotions. I felt hopeless, helpless, and in despair. The emotional pain I was feeling was so intense that death seemed the only way out. I was feeling isolated and disconnected from my loved ones. I had lost interest in all activities that I once enjoyed.  I would stay at home and usually sit in the dark. I felt detached from the world around me. There was an intense feeling of shame, guilt and worthlessness.”

Recollecting the day, Mr Sivalingam said, “I was on the 12th floor of my building, all ready to leap. I felt that there was not going to be a solution to my problem.  I was all ready to jump when my parents, family and my close friends’ faces flashed. I asked myself if I should end my life for someone who does not love me or stay alive for those who love me, and I stepped away.”

Mr Sivalingam said that he diverted his attention and channelled his energies to exercising. It has been more than a decade since his last attempt and Mr Sivalingam is now a happily married man.

Dj Sathiya (Photo: Supplied)

Causes

Experts say that the reasons behind suicide are complex and multifaceted. Many experts point to a lack of access to mental health services, as well as a lack of support for those who are struggling with mental health issues.

Social and economic factors, such as poverty, unemployment, relationship issues, financial problems and discrimination, are also believed to play a significant role in the high rates of suicide.

Mr Sivalingam said, “a lot of times adolescents contemplate ending their lives because of a failed relationship.”

He recounted how he was able to identify people on social media suffering from mental health issues based on the posts that they write. “I identified a pattern. The pattern was that the words in their posts would be dark, but the photographs would reflect happiness. It will not be a one-off but there would be a pattern. I know the pattern because I had done it before.

Mr Sivalingam explained, “So, I would randomly just DM (direct message) them and ask if they are ok. Usually, the response would be that they are all good and that it was a random post. But after I share my story with them, they would relent and open up. It did not matter if they thought I was intruding. I would just reach out. Sometimes it is just that one conversation that takes to keep someone alive.”

Mr Sivalingam had also created an anti-suicide anthem which as close to 20,000 views on YouTube.

New Zealand suicide Statistics. (Infographics by Nikita Patel)

Guilt in losing a loved one

Indian Newslink spoke to Prem (name has been changed to provide confidentiality), an Environmental Science final-year student at the University of Auckland about losing his good friend to suicide. He said, “it did not feel real when I got the news that he had hung himself. He was a good friend of mine. We sat next to each other in class. We had completed high school and were waiting for university placement.’

Prem said, “I was overwhelmed with emotions. It has been three years now and I still feel guilty and lousy. Feel that perhaps I did not pick up the signs, feel that perhaps I could have done something about it! I guess those thoughts will never change, thoughts that some intervention would have saved his life!”

Tell-tale signs

According to Matthew Tukaki, Director of the Suicide Prevention Office, New Zealand, “there are a few signs to watch out for if you are worried about a member of your whānau or a friend. You might have noticed changes in their behaviour, sleeping patterns or mood. They might have started to withdraw socially or stay home from work or school. Their eating habits may have changed, or they have stopped eating completely. Often, they start talking about wanting to die or a plan to kill themselves or are reading or posting online about death and they may start to give away things with personal meaning to them.”

Experts also say that some may also express feeling trapped or in unbearable pain or talk about being a burden to others. Increasing the use of alcohol or drugs can also be a sign. Some may act anxious or agitated.

Experts say that it is important to note that not all people who contemplate suicide will show these signs, and some may show different signs. That is why it is important to take seriously any talk about suicide or self-harm and have some intervention.

Helpline

If you think that someone might be at risk of suicide, trust your instincts and ask them directly if they are okay. It could save their life. Listen to them without judgement or distraction and then help them find support. There are several services that can help, including:

Lifeline – 0800 543 354

Youthline – 0800 376 633,

Free text 234 or

email talk@youthline.co.nz

If you think they are in immediate physical danger to themselves or others, call 111.

Dr Malini Yugendran is an Indian Newslink Reporter based in Auckland.

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