ON THE BRINK

When life’s tri­als seem too un­bear­able, some are pushed to ut­ter de­spair.

The Star Malaysia - Star2 - - FRONT PAGE - Sto­ries by N. RAMA LO­HAN and SHEELA CHAN­DRAN star2@ thes­tar. com. my

Some find the pres­sure of mod­ern liv­ing un­bear­able. But there are peo­ple will­ing to help.

SUI­CIDE is sel­dom men­tioned in news sto­ries of “sud­den deaths” where “no foul play is sus­pected”. But the cause of death – jump­ing from tall build­ings, or hang­ing, tak­ing poi­son or suf­fo­ca­tion due to ex­haust fumes in a locked car – is usu­ally an in­di­ca­tor that some­one has taken his life. Un­for­tu­nately, such news items are not un­com­mon and they never fail to shock.

It’s es­pe­cially sad when the de­ceased are young and seem­ingly in the prime of their lives.

A 17- year- old ac­tor hung him­self af­ter find­ing his SPM Ad­di­tional Math­e­mat­ics pa­per too tough. It was re­ported that he was in de­spair be­cause he felt that he had let down his mother and would not be able to care for her if he couldn’t score good grades.

“World­wide, sui­cide among ado­les­cents is on the rise, like­wise in Malaysia. This is a real pity be­cause sui­cide is largely pre­ventable,” says con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist and Malaysian Men­tal Health As­so­ci­a­tion deputy pres­i­dent Datuk Dr An­drew Mo­han­raj.

He says the younger gen­er­a­tion is grow­ing up in the In­ter­net Age, and are the least equipped to nav­i­gate and han­dle its chal­lenges.

“The In­ter­net should be an ex­cel­lent medium for hu­mans to ac­quire emo­tional sup­port and com­fort, but dig­i­tal and on­line in­ter­ac­tions don’t seem to achieve that,” he adds, point­ing out that dig­i­tal com­mu­ni­ca­tions lack the depth and rich­ness of face-

to- face in­ter­ac­tions.

Psy­chol­o­gist and sui­ci­dol­o­gist Dr Ad­nan Omar says he has han­dled sev­eral cases of cy­ber bul­ly­ing lead­ing to de­pres­sion and sui­ci­dal ten­den­cies. “There is a ten­dency to seek ap­proval through so­cial me­dia. Some get dev­as­tated if they don’t get the de­sired ap­proval and this can re­sult in de­pres­sion and some­times, sui­cide,” he says.

The se­cond lead­ing cause of death of 15- to- 29- year- olds in the world is sui­cide, due to var­i­ous rea­sons.

But sui­cide risks are also preva­lent in peo­ple of all ages, with men be­tween 45 and 54 re­ported to be the most vul­ner­a­ble.

Deputy Home Affairs Min­is­ter Tuan Masir Anak Ku­jat re­cently re­ported that a to­tal of 130 sui­cide cases was recorded in Malaysia be­tween Jan­uary and Oc­to­ber last year.

A to­tal of 178 sui­cide and sui­cide at­tempt cases was recorded in 2013, and 191 cases in 2014. He added that the in­ci­dence of sui­cide in the coun­try was due to var­i­ous fac­tors such as fi­nan­cial prob­lems, de­pres­sion, re­la­tion­ship dis­ap­point­ments and fam­ily prob­lems.

The Chi­nese record the high­est num­bers of sui­cide and sui­cide at­tempts, and the Malays the low­est.

“As far as the rate of sui­cide is con­cerned, data from the Na­tional Registry of Sui­cide in­di­cates only 1.3 per 100,000 pop­u­la­tion. This is a gross un­der­es­ti­mate. There are stud­ies that claim a more re­al­is­tic pic­ture of 11 to 13 per 100,000,” says Dr Mo­han­raj

The 2014 Pre­vent­ing Sui­cide: A Global Im­per­a­tive re­port by the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion re­ported that 800,000 peo­ple kill them­selves an­nu­ally. It also said that for each adult who com­mit­ted sui­cide, 20 oth­ers have at­tempted it.

Peo­ple of dif­fer­ent ages com­mit sui­cide for dif­fer­ent rea­sons. Older peo­ple tend to do so for eco­nomic and fam­ily rea­sons, while young peo­ple, over aca­demic and re­la­tion­ship is­sues, says Dr Ad­nan.

The most com­mon cause of sui­cide is de­pres­sion, which is a silent malaise.

“The pres­sure of ur­ban liv­ing, ris­ing costs and the pres­sure to ex­cel have con­trib­uted to the rise in sui­cides,” Dr Mo­han­raj shares.

Dr Ad­nan feels that as hu­mans we have an in­trin­sic need to co­ex­ist and to be con­tent with life.

“Hu­mans need oth­ers to lead mean­ing­ful, func­tional, pro­duc­tive and emo­tion­ally sta­ble lives. As our lives get busier with ma­te­rial pur­suits, we in­vest less time in proper hu­man re­la­tion­ships and in­ter­ac­tions, mak­ing us more de­tached from one an­other. So, when dif­fi­culty strikes, we are in­ca­pable of cop­ing be­cause we do not have strong, mean­ing­ful emo­tional and so­cial ties in so­ci­ety,” he ex­plains.

Some peo­ple are also ill- equipped to han­dle the chal­lenges of mod­ern liv­ing as there seems to be less sup­port net­works. Dr Ad­nan says there is de­clin­ing so­cial sup­port, mul­ti­ple de­mands on life, a ba­sic lack of aware­ness and skills to cope with pres­sure, and a sense of hope­less­ness and help­less­ness.

Sui­cide, how­ever, is not some­thing that hap­pens overnight.

Dr Mo­han­raj says 90% of sui­cides are due to ex­ist­ing men­tal ill­nesses like de­pres­sion, bipo­lar dis­or­der and schizophre­nia. If some­one with de­pres­sion also uses drugs or al­co­hol to con­tain his de­spair, sui­cide at­tempts are more likely.

“Some­times, when de­pres­sion is very se­vere and left un­treated, the suf­ferer can have psy­chotic symp­toms such as hal­lu­ci­na­tions and delu­sions. A hal­lu­ci­na­tory voice may tell the suf­ferer to kill him­self,” he adds.

Il­lus­tra­tion: FCHWAN/ The Star

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