BENGALURU: According to the World Health Organization (WHO), suicides take a high toll. Over 8,00,000 people die due to suicide every year and it is the second leading cause of death in 15-29-year-olds. Close to 20 per cent of these cases happen in India. Mental disorders and harmful use of alcohol contribute to many suicides around the world.
Early identification and effective management are key to ensuring that people receive the care they need. For preventive strategies to be effective, comprehensive multi layered initiatives are needed which will include restricting access to means of committing suicide at a more general level but more specifically there have been several studies that demonstrate a clear link between mental illness including depression and suicide.
In our country, majority of depressive illnesses are unrecognised and untreated. There are various reasons for the same, including lack of awareness and stigma associated with seeking help. The irony is that the treatment for depression is relatively inexpensive, it will include counselling, medications or both as appropriate in an individual situation.
It is imperative that the red flags of depression are picked as soon possible at least by the wider medical community and people who are in close contact with young people like teachers, parents etc. One of the commonest reasons for missing depression is that one expects classical symptoms like sadness, low energy and inability to enjoy life along with sleep and appetite disturbance, etc. In reality, depression usually presents in an atypical way i.e. there is a change in personality in the form of exaggeration of one’s nature. For example, if one is very particular about things, they become more so. Irritability and aggression is also commonly seen. There are various initiatives to educate people, like the youth mental health first aid programme, which can make a huge difference, if implemented effectively.
Early recognition and effective treatment of depression and other mental illnesses will go a long way in the reducing the rate of suicide.
The author is psychiatrist and head, Mpower-The Centre, Bengaluru