Cry for help
Youths who attempt suicide just want to
be heard and understood. >2-3
TIARA Shafiq was only 11 years old when she first thought of commiting suicide. She was about to cut herself with a pair of scissors at school, when her friend stopped her, saying, “If you do it, God won’t love you and you’ll go to hell”.
She never attempted to take her own life again since then, but that did not stop her from having sucicidal thoughts.
“I suffered horrendous racism at school and I had just about everybody – especially the teachers – blaming me for all the troubles in the newspapers, asking me to justify why there were all these reports of Bangladeshi related crimes in there. I was 11, how would I know?” says Tiara, whose parents migrated to Malaysia from Bangladesh in the 1980s.
The 25-year-old performance artist, who was born and raised in Malaysia, said that although it was getting her really down, she never talked about it – even to her family.
“My mum remembers me coming home (from school) every day being angry and grumpy but never quite knowing why.”
Although Tiara did not end up acting on her suicidal thought, she nevertheless kept feeling that she shouldn’t live and often wished she was dead.
Unfortunately, many young people have similar thoughts as Tiara and some even attempt at taking their own lives.
China Press recently reported that a 13-yearold girl in Johor Baru attempted suicide by overdosing on painkillers. The student was allegedly tormented by a secret society forcing her to recruit 10 new members for the gang.
Unable to stand constant threats from the group, the girl tried to kill herself by consuming the pills but was saved by family members who rushed to her aid.
The National Suicide Registry Malaysia 2008 annual report states that 290 suicide cases were documented that year alone. The youngest case reported was that of a 12-year-old child. The report found that suicides occurred most frequently in the age group of between 20 to 29 years with 75 reported cases.
The number of unsuccessful suicide attempts is unrecorded, and presumably much higher.
Non-governmental organisation Befrienders, which provides free counselling to those in distress, recently revealed that of the 19,300 calls they received in 2009, 20% were from people expressing suicide tendencies.
Not an act
There are many reasons why people want to commit suicide, and contrary to public belief, it isn’t always about seeking attention. A majority of people who attempt or commit suicide have been known to suffer from a form of psychological disorder, notably depression.
Cyberjaya University College of Medical Sciences associate professor in Psychiatry and consultant psychiatrist Dr Muhammad Najib Mohamad Alwi says that there is no definite cause as to why one suffers from a depressive illness.
“The biggest misconceptionception about depression is that it is a sign of weakness and something that one should quickly snap out of,” he says.
When depression is severe, it may seriously affect an indi-individual’s quality of lifelife and social functioning. This may even lead to suicide and thus, early treatment is
very important to reduce morbidity and mortality caused by it.
Suicide attempts could also be caused by stress such as from dealing with financial setbacks, broken relationships and unemployment.
“I started getting suicidal thoughts when I was 15. They came whenever I was sad, especially when it was over a boy,” says Desiree Wong, 17.
Desiree was the only child in her family but says that she did not have a close relationship with her parents. She used to cut her arms just for pleasure and her parents, even though they noticed her scars, never said a word.
“I used to wish that I would just suddenly die by getting run over by a car or getting killed by some stranger. I also used to wish that I had the courage to cut myself deeper or jump off a building,” she admits.
Things took a turn for the worse when Desiree swallowed a whole bottle of paracetamol – twice. Thankfully, her ex-boyfriend caught her in the act both times, and helped her vomit most of them out.
“My parents ignored the scars on my wrist but they were really upset at the pill incidents.”
Support not punish
According to Tiara, the worst thing one could do to a person with suicidal tendency is not to take them seriously. Many people feel that it is just attention-seeking behaviour.
“Don’t claim that it was all just for attention. Well, there is a reason why they are trying to get your attention – part of them wants help,” she says.
“People who attempt or commit suicide usually feel like they’ve run out of options. They are crying out for help. When you’re suicidal or depressed it’s extremely hard to think about other people’s reactions because you’re stuck in the brainwave of, ‘ No one cares about me anyway, I’m useless’. Jail is not a deterrent,” Tiara wrote in her blog previously. She was addressing an attempt in 2008 by the Malaysian police to enforce the law on attempted suicide as a form of deterrence. In an open letter to The Star titled Suicide A
Cry for Help, Befrienders chairman S. Gangadara Vadivel wrote: Many who attempt suicide are unaware of sources where they could seek emotional support. The availability of emotional support at a time of crisis could be crucial and could make the difference between life or death.
While the laws of the land must be respected, we appeal to the authorities to treat attempted suicide cases with compassion and mercy. They need compassion and counselling, not prosecution and punishment.
“(Our) suicidal callers feel helpless, hopeless, isolated and suffer unbearabale emotional pain. We allow them to share their innermost feelings, with the assurance of confidentiality and acceptance. We convey that we are ‘with them’ during their crisis and that they do not have to suffer alone,” he says.
In 2007, Tiara once again thought about suicide. She wanted to jump off her college’s balcony while going through some personal and university related problems. Thankfully, she realised what was happening before attempting it.
“I thought, ‘Wait, this is seriously bad. I really need help’,” Tiara says.
She seeked help from the head of her college’s head, asking for help. The college head then brought her to the nearest doctor and she was prescribed some medication.
“I still get such thoughts once in a while when I’m depressed, especially when my period is about to come. That’s just because my hormones are adjusting. It sucks, but I have to deal with it,” she says.
Now, Tiara not only gets through her days with the help of medication and “talk therapy” but also by getting involved in all sorts of projects that interests her. She acts and does classes in burlesque and circus.
Desiree, on the other hand, has not had suicidal thoughts in a long time. She says that she has found the secret to her happiness – laughter and love.
“Laughter is indeed the best medicine and the second best is love,” she says, adding that one of the best decisions she ever made was talking to her loved ones about her problems.
She also says that she once hated her parents for not being able to understand her, but have since realised that she too failed to understand them.
“They have accepted the fact that this is just the way I am and I in turn have learned to understand them more,” says Desiree.