By Paonam Thoibi
“It is believed that people who are suicidal want the pain to end but not their life itself”
Q 1. Madam, I recently saw a legal counseling programme on the local cable TV. The host of the programme who is also a lawyer was taking interview of a rape victim family. He himself declared that the identity and address of the victim will not be disclosed. But in the same programme he took interviews of the victim’s mother, victim’s sis-in-law and lastly the of the victim with her face morphed. He repeatedly mentioned that the victim is ‘maraibakthirabi’ and asked so many questions repeatedly. He was not only making mockery of the programme but he was actually re-victimising the victim. Just sharing some thoughts through your column.
-A Menaka, Khagempali.
Ans: Dear Menaka, I understand the anguish you have expressed and can understand the futility of the situation which the survivor of the unfortunate incident and the family members must have gone through. But before we jump into any conclusions its better if we can know the very purpose of the programme that you mentioned. It may be also possible that the survivor’s consent is taken and she is well aware of the whole programme beforehand.
But whatever the objective of the programme you are still right in bringing up the phenomena of‘re-victimisation’ or traumatisation of a person who had already undergone a horrific event. Many a times, no matter how well intentioned helpers may be some of our ways go wrong and this is just one instance. It may well point to lack of professional ethics and sensibility. This will do more harm than good as it had originally intended.
However, I would be limited in my comments and suggestion and encourage you to address your concern through this paper in the letter to the editor or directly to the legal counseling firm.
I appreciate your sincere thoughts.
Q: Dear Madam, even though I don’t know the correct numbers and figures, I think the rate of suicide is ever increasing. We do not really have suicide hotlines or suicide first aid centres. I want to know how having a hotline service or suicide counseling centres would help in this menace. Kindly share us some of the causes of people committing suicide so that we may be aware of it may prevent it in our best possible way.
-Student, K.V Langjing
Ans: Your question is a very thoughtful one and revolves around an issue which challenges all of us mental health professionals. Suicide as we all know is a self-inflicted death in which one makes an intentional, direct, and conscious effort to end one’s life. People commit or attempts suicide for many reasons, most of which no one knows. Mostly these are people in crisis –that is, under great stress, unable to cope, feeling threatened or hurt, and interpreting their situations as unchangeable.
Also, families of people who die by suicide report that they have some kind of psychiatric disorder, most commonly depression or bipolar disorder. The other major risk factors include substance use and abuse. A previous suicide attempt is another major risk factor and a number of people who successfully commits suicide have made a previous attempt. The loss of meaningful relationships and issues related to sexual identity or sexual orientation can also be reasons which can get people trapped in the depression which can lead to suicides. It is said that people who are suicidal somehow are telling people and reaching out in a way they that they are looking for some relief. Most of the time before the attempt they are said to be telling their close friends how they want to end their life and even how they have planned it. Therefore it is believed that people who are suicidal want the pain to end but not their life itself. It is on this logic that suicide centres and hotlines for suicide prevention are enforced. Mental health professionals can try to help people work through that intense psychological pain and find a way through it. The centers can try to help suicidal people perceive things more accurately, make better decisions, act more constructively, and overcome their crisis. Once a person with suicide risk is identified, intervention can start at the centre by a visit or quickly through a phone call which can skillfully be developed into a proper psychotherapeutic meeting very soon. The mental health professionals can take the opportunity to gather more information about actual risk, such as determining whether the client has an actual plan and the means to carry out the plan. The professional can challenge the irrational belief if the client’s life will be better if he/she commits the suicide. Also, crises can occur at any time, therefore the centers should ideally have a 24-hour-a-day telephone service (“hot lines”) and also welcome clients to walk in without prior appointments.
Also we should be aware that after a suicide attempt, the victims’ primary need is medical care. Some are left with severe injuries, brain damage, or other medical problems. Once the physical damage is reversed, or at least stabilized, a process of psychotherapy may begin. The goal of therapy is to help the client achieve a non-suicidal state of mind and develop more constructive ways of handling stress and solving problems.
All said and done, a good communication system in the family and the environment which has a foundation in good education and proper social and moral support can prevent many suicide deaths.
Readers are requested to send in their queries at firstname.lastname@example.org