Dubai: There are warning signs for recognising suicidal tendencies, say clinical psychologists at The Lighthouse Arabia, a community mental health clinic that provides non-profit grief support services.
Dr Saliha Afridi, Clinical Psychologist and Director of the clinic, told Gulf News, "Not everyone who says they are considering suicide will do so, but all threats should be considered seriously. Intense or long-lasting sadness or moodiness can be symptoms of depression — a major risk factor for suicide. Recent life crisis or trauma such as a break up, divorce, diagnosis of a major illness or serious financial problems can trigger a suicide attempt."
“Reckless driving, drinking excessive alcohol, and/or taking drugs may indicate that the person no longer values his life. Also a person considering suicide will begin to make preparations like put his financials in order and/or give away personal possessions.
She said that people should try to recognise uncharacteristic and potentially risky behaviours. "Reckless driving, drinking excessive alcohol, and/or taking drugs may indicate that the person no longer values his life. Also a person considering suicide will begin to make preparations like put his financials in order and/or give away personal possessions."
On dealing with people with suicidal tendencies, Dr Afridi said, "Don't be afraid to ask tough questions like, ‘Are you thinking about dying?', ‘Are you thinking about suicide?', ‘How would you do it?', ‘When would you do it?' The next step is listen. Don't offer to solve his problems, instead listen and then persuade him to get help."
She added, "If the situation seems more critical, and the person refuses help, refer to a mental health professional and involve the family members. Don't be afraid of breaking their confidence if it means saving their life."
Fellow Clinical Psychologist and Clinical Director, Dr Tara Wyne, spoke to Gulf News about the common causes of suicides. "The factors that make someone more vulnerable include genetics and family history [traumatic experience during childhood such as a bereavement]; mental health; lifestyle — people who misuse alcohol and drugs are at increased risk of suicidal thoughts; and poor job security and/or low levels of job satisfaction or not having a job. People who are socially isolated and have few close relationships with others have a higher risk of dying by suicide as well."
Further Dr Wyne said, "Clients with ongoing mental health problems such as depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia often have suicidal intentions." However she said suicidal tendencies are not limited to these people.
"Anybody who gets to the limit of what he can emotionally endure and becomes highly distressed, can be triggered by factors such as extreme stress, adverse life circumstances, painful thoughts and feelings, poor coping mechanisms, lack of adequate support, traumatic life events, and problems in relationships with significant others."
Dr Wyne spoke about the available support for those seeking help in the UAE. "There are a number of mental health professionals in this country — clinical psychologists, psychiatrists and inpatient psychiatric units at hospitals like Al Rashid Hospital and other government hospitals across the UAE that can assess the risk, provide support and help you to make decisions about what help you need."
To help people we recognise as suicidal, her advice is to be compassionate and understanding about the pain these people may be experiencing. "It is really critical for us to be supportive and helpful, she told Gulf News. "Families and friends may be frustrated and distressed by the actions of the person who self-harms. They have to involve the appropriate professionals, psychologists, psychiatrists and hospital settings to manage this risk of self-harm."
Dr Wyne had advice for those with suicidal intentions. She said, "If we find ourselves feeling suicidal, we may have very little resources to fight the feelings. The most important thing we can do is not be impulsive and try to think beyond the feelings we have now. Consider any protective factors like loved ones. Try to find some space to involve someone, be it friend, family or professional. They will be able to think more clearly than you and may protect you from harm by getting the appropriate help."