In 2021, India reported 1,64,033 deaths by suicide of which 41 percent were young persons below 30 years. Research shows, every death by suicide impacts about 60 people affected by the loss of a loved one, and more than 20 attempt suicide.

Suicide is a complex and sensitive issue, and it’s crucial to approach it with care and empathy. Witnessing a loved one experience suicide thoughts can be overwhelming. But even those of us not trained as professionals can work towards understanding signs of distress and prepare to support those in crisis.

A Mariwala Health Initiative (2021) study said, it is crucial to find or create a safe space to talk to someone having thoughts of suicide. Check with them if it is the right time for a conversation and talk sensitively. Make an effort to share your genuine concern for their safety by talking about the action that may have alerted you.

Stigma makes people feel isolated or ashamed on feeling suicidal. Let them know that their feelings are valid and assure your support. Listen without judgement and communicate you are there to help and build hope in identifying supportive people and coping strategies. For example, encourage reaching out to support systems — friends, relatives, teachers or anyone they trust. You can also link them to helplines, peer support groups, mental health practitioners, community groups to find the right kind of support. Staying in touch also shows you care, so check-in regularly.

While talking to someone experiencing suicidal thoughts, some responses can make people feel rejected, unheard, guilty or criticised. Expressing anger, for instance, does more harm than good. You need to be patient, especially if they are not receptive towards your offer to help at first.

Show empathy and recognise their struggle and do not try to fix or control their feelings or dictate solutions. A simple, “I am here for you,” can go a long way. Promoting open conversations about mental health and suicide will reduce stigma and increase awareness that resources and support networks are available. Together, we can work towards preventing suicide and providing help to those who need it. Suicide is difficult to talk about, but talking openly is key to preventing it.

(For support, contact Sneha Foundation Trust: +9144 24620050)

Priti Sridhar

Priti Sridhar

(The writer is CEO Mariwala Health Initiative. Views are personal.)