LIFE IS WORTH A CONVERSATION
Suicides concern every social group of any age. Regardless of a place of living or religion. We can counteract them. On 10 September there is a Day of Preventing Suicides all over the world
A difficult issue. So delicate. It concerns the deepest spaces of life. According to the WHO statistics, every 40 seconds one person dies from suicide, that is, 800 thousand people during a year. This is one of the 20 most frequent reasons for death in every age group all over the world. Most suicides are men. In Poland every day 15 people commit suicides, out of whom there are just men. We are in the second place in Europe as for suicides among the under-aged. Every act like that touches approximately 135 people who live with their families – parents, spouses, siblings, friends, acquaintances. Millions of people are suffering. These are statistics.
What leads to such a dramatic act? What makes us lose belief in sense of life? Reasons are very complex. Every suicidal act is a different story. This is an issue of both genetic, psychological, climatic factors (like strong winds) or geopolitical (conflicts, financial situation), or experienced trauma or losses. Here it concerns a widely understood loss – somebody we love, our work, sense of life. In the case of teenagers and young people this is mostly an illness, no support from family, unsuccessful love, lack of possibility to get promoted, and in the case of seniors – alienation, no support from family or no money to live. People committing suicides have negative thoughts about themselves and their achievements. They feel worthless and do not believe in a possibility to gain help, and perceive death as the only way of putting the end to their suffering. All this is compounded by the pace of life, duties overload, lots of information, aiming at success, lack of time for doing nothing.
Because the percentage of men committing suicides is so high, the Polish Suicidological Society has devoted this year’s day just to them. So, what does the general portrait of a man look like, who decided to commit a suicide? – The age is 35/40 – 60, jobless, having a problem with alcohol, living in a village or in a small town – says Halszka Witkowska, a suicidologist, a member of the Management Board of the Polish Suicidological Society, a coordinator and originator of the campaign ‘Life is worth a conversation’. It should be noted that as for statistics concerning suicides, 80 percent of them are men: completely opposite tendency concerns suicide attempts – in this case we notice a prevailing number of women. Why do men die the most? Again, the phenomenon is complex. The suicidologist emphasizes that it is impossible to adjust one example to all situations and enumerates the basic elements which cause this problem. These are:
• Feeling responsibility
• Social pressure
• Difficult communication
In our culture, as Halszka Witkowska explains, a man has a sense of responsibility for home, family, work. If he fails in one of these areas, he feels grudge to himself, feels a strong social pressure. Beside, men are unwilling to speak about their problems, emotions, and find it difficult to open up. They do feel it is right for them to speak about what worries them, they must cope with their problems and it is not right for them to cry. So, they are suffering in loneliness.
80 percent of suicide attempts and suicides are preceded by particular signals. So, what can be worrying?
The specialist from the Polish Suicidical Society suggests that our vigilance should be raised by:
• The change in behavior
For example, somebody energetic, active, spontaneous, open up to people, and closed up now; a very obese person has suddenly got thin, stopped taking care about himself/herself; somebody – which can also be the result of illnesses, depression – stops taking care of his/her appearance, hygiene, diet, there appear changes in emotionality.
• Ordering life
Somebody starts to give away his property, pay off his/her debts, settle his formal matters, do a testament, say farewell to people, etc.
• Speaking about suicide directly or figuratively
There are a lot of myths around us concerning the phenomenon of suicide. One of them is a belief that if somebody speaks about suicide, he will not do it. That is not true. The above-mentioned statistics are alarming that suicides said in most cases that they were going to commit suicide, directly or using phrases: what would be if I did not exist; you would have a better life without me; I do not want to live; I must end with all this; nobody cares whether I am alive or not.
• Appearing crisis situations
We must remember that everybody has a different psychical resistance, everybody experiences the same events differently: divorce, being sacked from work, death of somebody from family. A person who is in these or similar situations, always needs support, particular attention.
In the case of children or the youth, we should pay attention to: isolation; especially sudden changes in behavior – for example, when a child suddenly stops being interesting in what he/she has been interested in so far; excessive being interested in death; frequent presence on websites devoted to this issue.
How can we help?
We must know that a suicide is a process. Living beside somebody, we can counteract. However, we should remember that there is a group of people, about which we may feel helpless. Regardless of it, we should always try it; try to be, talk, support, show our understanding. Not escape.
What can we do?
Halszka Witkowska enumerates:
• Show our empathy to this person
• Say: you are important to me, I have time for you, I am with you
• Do not evaluate somebody’s problem
• Do not diminish and do not say: it is not so bad, others are in a worse situation, it will be better
• Listen, give your presence, space to speak on this issue
• In a crisis situation we must ask directly about suicidal thoughts.
A lot of people are afraid of asking a question about suicidal thoughts or talk on this issue in order not to induce someone to this act. – But it often works differently – says a psychotherapist Natasza Maźniewska. –Our question may open up this person, convince her/him that he/she is not alone with her/his problems, suffering. It may also make this person, who will hear it, begin to look for other solutions.
A good form of help a person in a crisis, beside a sincere talk, is haring responsibility with her/him, with engagement of family and close friends. It is also worth helping this person to concentrate on her/his possibilities and strong sides instead of weaknesses.
Signals sent by children and teenagers are not often treated seriously, parents do not perceive reasons for which a child would decide to commit a suicide, they deny their child’s suffering and do not want to think that he/she is experiencing difficulties – says Ewa Wesołowska, a psychologist and psychotherapist. When the issue of death appears, in the context of lowered mood or changes in the child’s life (breaking up with a boyfriend or changing a school, necessity of getting adapted to the change, depression), when there appears a signal that a child does not want to live, it is necessary to react immediately: talk to the child, consult with a specialist – says the psychologist.
When we see worrying signals sent by somebody endangered by a suicide, we must react. Experts emphasize that the people who do not want to live any longer or feel to be a burden for others, often slide into a shadow. Then it is necessary to react according to the rule: I am not going to obtrude myself on others. And just in this situation it is necessary to ask and listen, but also remember about delicacy and tactfulness. However, if our talks, suggestions concerning a visit to a specialist, devoted time are not enough, it is worth taking help from specialists, like help lines – helplines or 112 in the case of a particular information about a particular person’s plan about committing a suicide. We have no time to lose – Halszka Witkowska appeals. – We must not treat such declarations as unimportant. We must know that this is a fight for someone’s life. It must be surrounded by care and tenderness. We must not ignore the situation! This is the most important.
In Poland there is the 24-hour Centre of Support for People in Psychical Crisis. One can gain help there for 7 days (www.liniawsparcia.pl). There are specialists at the phone number 800 70 22 22 who also answer emails: email@example.com and they are on chat. – At any time of a day and night one can ask us for help and advice – says Izabela Jezierska – Świergiel, a specialist of the ITAKA Foundation which is a founding body of the Centre of Support for People in Psychical Crisis. –A complex help is given by specialists: psychologists, psychiatrists, lawyers. Because a psychical crisis is often caused by, for example, financial problems or problems with law and one must solve them from a different side than the psychological one. Sometimes people phone us who are on the verge. So, we carry out intervention – we inform the police about the existing situation and our psychologist who is talking to a particular person, is waiting on the line till the moment when he hears the voice of a policeman or a medical rescuer informing about taking over the issue. In this way we have managed to rescue a lot of people!
What is essential is the fact that both this one and other helplines are also assigned for families and relatives of people in a crisis. Here they can gain hints hot to help and where they can find particular help near their place of living.
A respond to the demand for knowledge about how to prevent suicides is another portion of open lectures which are held within a social campaign ‘Life is worth a conversation’. Beside the lectures every participant needing a conversation will be able to have a consultation with a specialists on duty in Rooms of Support (information on the left).
With the eye of a priest
– Difficult experiences or crisis are challenges for to us, whether we will inscribe it into the rest of our life as a painful fragment of something really good – says Fr. Rafał Kowalski, a priest, psychologist and therapist in a centre for the addicts ‘Betania’. – If a man knows what it is for, he will know how. This is something which is sometimes called ‘uniting philosophy’ when a man has a coherent image of the world, asked himself a few questions and found answers to them. He knows what person he wants to be like, how to behave when facing up suffering; that people are good and he can ask for help. The last one opens the most practical thought – there are a few skills which help us go through difficult experiences: a skill of expressing one’s feelings, speaking about one’s fear, making a phone call to friends, a skill unfamiliar to a lot of men – going to a doctor (sometimes it is a cardiologist and sometimes a therapist), a skill of praying – and I do not mean knowing prayers but awareness that I am looking at Somebody’s eyes, for whom there is no hopeless situation on the earth…
* * *
On the website suicydologia.org one can read: ‘Save life is to save a body, but in order to save a man, one must save his will to live. It is not only a problem of professional help but also ordinary human friendliness. Where there is a danger, there is also a possibility of rescue’. We should not be indifferent to those who live near us. We should be sensitive and support, give hope. When there is such a need – we should take a particular action.