This December, three suicide incidents were recorded in Ilocos Sur.
The latest was a 16-year-old female student who killed herself by hanging.
To date, more than 70 suicide incidents were recorded in the province since the onset of Covid-19 pandemic, according to the Ilocos Sur Police Provincial Office.
Aside from the 339 total Covid-19 deaths in the province, the increasing number of suicide incidents shows the unseen effect of the pandemic to our mental health.
With the loss of non-verbal communications to follow the minimum public health standards, indeed, the pandemic has caused so much change to our daily routine.
Many have adapted quickly and continued with their lives while some took things slowly, with few… who decided to completely give up.
In an interview with Ms. Precious Lyn Babida, a mental health advocate and a psychology practitioner, she discussed the warning signs of suicide, and the dos and don’ts in suicide prevention.
How to tell if someone is having suicidal thoughts?
1. Planning or talking about doing suicide
While many are open with what they want to say or what they feel… some are not. Ms. Babida said that if somebody talks about suicide, even if it looks like they are joking, we should take it seriously and try to talk them out of it.
2. Feeling hopeless, anxious, restless and/or depressed
Fatigue or tiredness is easy to spot in a person but sadness, especially if a person is used to hiding their emotions, is difficult to notice. But as the saying goes, eyes are the windows to the soul, and if a person is sad, the eyes will reflect it. Asking how somebody’s day went can help.
3. Cannot cope with intense emotional pain
We become emotional when we are in pain. It is okay. But if we notice that someone cannot easily cope with intense emotional pain, we need to make sure that we are there to listen.
4. Change in behavioral patterns like sleeping or eating pattern
When we have problems, it is kind of hard for us to sleep or eat on time like we used to. So if we spot a certain change in the behavior of someone we know are in need, we must be vigilant and try to help.
5. Settling outstanding affairs, giving away valuable belongings, or making amends when they are otherwise not expected to die
We notice something is wrong with someone if they do something they don’t normally do. So if you feel like a person is saying goodbye or wants to say goodbye, don’t hesitate to ask what’s wrong. And if they don’t open up, try harder and make them feel that they are not alone.
How to help people who are suicidal?
1. Do not be judgmental
It isn’t overreacting. It is being honest and vocal. Empathize with them, don’t judge them too quickly. Know every detail and try to put yourself in their shoes… That's when you start to know where they really are and where they want to go.
2. Do not dare the person to do it
It is easy for some to look down on others especially if they didn’t experience the same situation. Do not dare the person to do it, instead, dare them to do the opposite – to be strong and live longer.
3. Do not give false hopes
While it is nice that we give advice to people in need, we must think carefully about what we say – be realistic. It is better to be harsh but true rather than to be sweet but full of lies. Truth hurts as it opens our minds to things that we don’t want to see but will definitely help us become better.
4. Ask the question and listen
“Thank you for listening. It made me feel better.”
Isn’t it nice to hear a friend or a stranger say this to you after talking to them? Isn’t it good to see a smile from someone who just cried?
Even if we weren’t able to help solve their problem, just by asking what’s wrong and listening to what they feel and/or what they want to say, it’s like being able to provide a solution as we have accompanied them in their worst moments… and that is more than enough.
It is good to have someone to lean on but it is also great to lend a hand and share a shoulder for someone who needs one.
5. Take action and get help
“I am someone who cares and wants to listen. How can I help you to find help?”
It’s okay to reach out for help.
Seek professional help, find a therapist, a counselor or a psychologist.
If you feel like giving up and you have no one to talk with, don’t be afraid to contact these numbers:
Manila Lifeline Center: 0917 854 9191
Hopeline Philippines – One Life. One Line. One Call: 0917 558 4673
National Center for Mental Health: 0917 899 8727
And if you are the one having suicidal thoughts, Ms. Babida added that we shouldn’t try be alone and try to apply to our ourselves what we tell to others and do for others who are in need.
If it makes us feel any better, it is okay to avoid toxic people who make us look down on ourselves.
It is also advisable to make a list of our accomplishments as these will help boost our self-confidence and will show us that every day is still worth living for.
Let us also practice positive mantras or coping statements such as “Life goes on, and/or everything will be okay.”
Suicide is preventable. You are not alone. Together is the way. (JCR/JMCQ, PIA Ilocos Sur)