Suicide is a pressing global public health concern. According to Gabriela Gómora Figueroa, head of the Psychological Guidance and Attention Space (ESPORA) at the Institute of Cellular Physiology (IFC) of the UNAM, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports that 703,000 people take their own lives annually after multiple attempts. Shockingly, more people die from suicide every year than from HIV, breast cancer, war, or homicide. Suicide accounts for one out of every one hundred deaths worldwide, as per the WHO.
In 2020, there were 7,818 deaths due to self-inflicted injuries in Mexico, representing 0.7% of the total number of deaths and a suicide rate of 6.2 per 100,000 inhabitants, according to the National Institute of Statistics and Geography. Suicide is a complicated and painful issue that affects the population significantly. Gabriela Gómora Figueroa warns that suicidal ideation has certain indicators that we could all experience.
Despite the severity of the problem, most people who plan or attempt suicide do not receive treatment, as per a survey conducted by the WHO in 21 countries. Gabriela Gómora Figueroa explains that the main barriers for people to seek professional help in the field of mental health are that they perceive little need for it, that they can handle the situation themselves, or that they lack financial means. This often leads them to reach out to an acquaintance or someone in their circle to talk or express their feelings.
The issue of suicide is not limited to a specific age group. The highest suicide rate in Mexico is among young people between 18 and 29 years old. In 2019, it was the fourth leading cause of death in that age group. As part of the Annual Conference on Mental Health organized by the Equity Commission of the Faculty of Sciences, Gabriela Gómora Figueroa emphasized the significance of the problem and the need for attention and treatment. The 2018 National Health and Nutrition Survey found that five percent of the surveyed population stated that they have ever thought of committing suicide, and two percent have harmed themselves for that purpose.
Suicide Warning Signs
According to Gómora Figueroa, self-harm is not a mental disorder, but rather a behavior that people use to regulate their emotions or to cope with intense psychological pain. While it may provide temporary relief, it can also put individuals at risk for serious harm. Therefore, it is crucial to detect and identify this behavior to intervene and prevent its occurrence, as suicide attempts are up to 20 times more common than actual suicides.
It is important to understand the spectrum of suicidal risk, which includes ideation, communication of suicidal thoughts, rehearsal of suicidal behavior, self-inflicted harm and completed suicide. Warning signs of suicidal behavior include expressing a desire to die or joking about it, low self-esteem, hopelessness, feeling like a burden to others, isolating oneself, and engaging in reckless behavior or substance use.
By recognizing these warning signs and intervening early, we can help prevent suicide and self-harm and promote better mental health.
Suicide Prevention Measures
When someone is affected by suicidal thoughts or behavior, it is crucial to provide support and assistance. Start by actively listening to the person and showing interest in their well-being. Accompany them and ask respectful questions, while also validating their feelings and taking the situation seriously. It is also essential to identify the network of available services for their care.
It is important to avoid downplaying or ignoring the situation, leaving the person alone with their discomfort, showing panic, shame, or dismay, or judging, criticizing, or lecturing them. Intentional death should never be viewed as a valid option. Don't be afraid to ask questions and seek help.
Educating and supporting family, friends, and peers to intervene in these situations is vital to preventing suicide. Combining efforts to move from "you" to "us" is crucial to process this issue. Mental health campaigns, controlling access to lethal means, and media support are also effective interventions.
It is a fallacy to believe that talking about suicide will increase the risk of it happening. On the contrary, silence may worsen the situation. Creating open spaces for honest and respectful conversations about how someone might be feeling is necessary.
Another fallacy is that only people with mental disorders commit suicide. This belief is untrue and stigmatizes individuals who may be struggling with mental health issues. It is essential to recognize that suicide affects people from all backgrounds and age groups, and support should be available to anyone who needs it.