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By Rachel V Thomas
Covid-induced lockdown has been lifted from most regions and various other measures have been eased. But, the very thought that Covid-19 pandemic is still on continues to affect mental health. The uncertain nature of the pandemic, the chaos associated with the same continues to add to mental stress, which manifests as rising cases of depression, anxiety, insomnia, behavioural changes, health anxiety, nightmares, grief, among others, all that can contribute to suicidal thoughts and behaviour, said mental health experts here on Friday.
September 10 is annually observed as World Suicide Prevention Day. Suicide remains one of the leading causes of death in the world, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO), accounting for one in every 100 deaths. Every 40 seconds there is someone who ends his or her life, as per the WHO data. The theme this year is "creating hope through action".
"A lot of people have gone through economic and financial stresses, some have lost jobs, some are concerned about their future and about their career, some have had loss of their loved ones, some of them had medical problems or going through medical problems right now," Dr Samir Parikh, director, Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences, Fortis Healthcare, told IANS.
A study published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems in December last year, showed a 67.7 per cent increase in online news media reports of attempted suicides and deaths by suicide. Photo by Andreea Popa on Unsplash
"Covid has led to a definite rise in mental health concerns. Factors like grief, loneliness, social isolation, significant depression, financial stress, job loss, marital / family discord, alcohol/ substance dependence, feelings of hopelessness/ loneliness and lack of meaning to one's life, can all contribute to suicidal thoughts and behaviour," added Dr Sameer Malhotra, Director and Head, Department of Mental Health and Behavioural Sciences at Max Super Speciality Hospital, Saket. A study published in the International Journal of Mental Health Systems in December last year, showed a 67.7 per cent increase in online news media reports of attempted suicides and deaths by suicide.
There were online news media reports of 369 cases of suicides and attempted suicides during Covid lockdown vs 220 reports in 2019, revealed the study by the Indian Law Society, Pune. According to the experts, Covid has contributed to mental health concerns among children, young and old alike. Children face disturbed sleep-wake cycles, irritability, lifestyle issues, loneliness. Many have also indulged in deliberate self-harm behaviour.
Adults are struggling to achieve work-life balance, emotional burnout in efforts to coordinate and fulfil responsibilities, at times marital/ family discord, alcohol/ substance use. Photo by Warren Wong on Unsplash
Adults are struggling to achieve work-life balance, emotional burnout in efforts to coordinate and fulfil responsibilities, at times marital/ family discord, alcohol/ substance use. Elderly feel lonely being away from children due to travel restrictions. Due to physical comorbidities, they are not able to connect to friends and family in person.
So how can people come out of the condition?
Seek help when needed. Ensure support and help to people when they express suicidal thoughts and feelings of hopelessness. Guide and instill in them a sense of hope, optimism and positivity."There is an increased need to strengthen support systems. We should look at good social-economic support for people who are vulnerable. Organisations need to become very mental health friendly and support their employees. Focus should be made more on lifestyle and mental health outcomes," Parikh said. He also suggested the need for timely intervention, creating helplines in all languages to make it easier for people across the nation to reach out for support if necessary.
(Article originally published at IANSlife) (IANS/SS)
Keywords: covid, lockdown, suicide, health
Schools across Japan are taking action against increasing student suicides that have occurred during the Covid-19 pandemic, holding sessions on mental health and helping pupils to show how they feel by using technology.
According to government data, Japan reported a record number of 499 student suicides last year amid the pandemic, as many were believed to have felt lonely during months-long school closures to prevent the virus spread, reports Xinhua news agency. The figure for the first half of 2021 was higher than the previous year, the data added. At an educational session on mental health organized by a junior high school in Wakayama prefecture, a school counsellor explained to around 140 students how to recognize signs revealing possible mental health problems.
Counselor Eriko Fujita, aged 54, who is also a certified psychologist, suggested second graders to watch out for changes in their habits, such as eating more desserts and spending more time on pets than usual. "You can learn about your mental condition by noticing changes in your physical health and behavior," Fujita told local media.
A high school girl, who was invited to take part in the session to share her experiences, said she had asked for help from local authorities when she felt her mental health was deteriorating. She found it was not embarrassing to send out an SOS signal.
Since the session was opened, more students at the school, which is affiliated with Wakayama University's Faculty of Education, have consulted teachers about their mental conditions. "Awareness that it is important to seek help has spread," Fujita told local media. Education board of Osaka in April introduced a software application named "weather of the heart" to monitor the students' mental health. The app is installed onto tablet computers used by all children at elementary and junior high schools operated by the city.
In the morning assembly, students can pick one option from "sunny", "cloudy", "rain" and "thunder" to show the way they feel that day. The results are automatically sent to their teachers' devices, noticing them about changes in the mood of the students who chose a different option from before.
It could be helpful for young teachers with less teaching experience, a member of the education board said. The data showed that by month, the highest number of student suicide cases in 2020 was reported in August at 65, followed by 55 in September.
The figures register students who feel most under pressure psychologically when they go back to school after a long summer vacation. Tetsuro Noda, a professor at Hyogo University of Teacher Education, told local media that schools are required to prepare a system to carefully respond to SOS calls from the students, and it is also important to facilitate an environment for the students to easily reach out for help.
"The government needs to expand assistance at schools by increasing the number of teachers or counsellors," Noda added. (IANS/RN)
Keywords: Covid-19 pandemic, Mental Health, Japan, Suicide, Students
While suicide rates are generally higher in men than in women, but those who indulge in family care workers are less vulnerable to take their lives, according to a new study.
The study, led by Colorado State University researchers, found that men's suicide mortality is related to their private-life behaviours, specifically their low engagement in family care work -- not just the adversities they may encounter in aspects of their public lives, such as employment.
Men tend to overinvest in the role of an economic provider and underinvest in family care work -- a pattern that leaves them vulnerable when economic-provider work is threatened or lost, according to Silvia Sara Canetto Canetto, Professor of Psychology at the varsity.
In the study, family caregiving was defined as, for example, providing personal care or education for a child, and/or providing care for a dependent adult.
The researchers examined suicide, male family caregiving, and unemployment in 20 countries, including the US, Austria, Belgium, Canada and Japan.
Suicide rates were found to be lower in countries where men reported more family care work, showed the study published in Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology.
In countries where men reported more such care work, higher unemployment rates were not associated with higher suicide rates in men. By contrast, in countries where men reported less family care work, higher unemployment rates were associated with elevated male suicide rates. Incidentally, unemployment benefits did not reduce male suicide rates.
Taken together, the findings suggest that men's family care work may protect them against suicide, particularly under difficult economic circumstances, Canetto said.
Men's greater involvement in family care work would also relieve women of their disproportionate caregiving load, and give children more resources.
The findings suggest incorporating support for engagement in family care work in programmes aimed at reducing men's suicide mortality.
"This means expanding beyond dominant frameworks of men's suicide prevention with their employment-support focus," Canetto explained. "It also means going beyond treating suicide as just a mental health problem to be solved with mental health 'treatments.'" (IANS/AD).
India has effectively decriminalized suicide, with the Mental Healthcare Act, passed by Parliament in 2017 and entering into force a year later, noting that “notwithstanding anything contained in section 309 of the Indian Penal Code (that makes it a punishable offense), any person who attempts to commit suicide shall be presumed, unless proved otherwise, to have severe stress and shall not be tried and punished under the said Code”.
“Truly, suicide then is the end of the present, but it is always a possibility of the future. It is the end for the one who commits suicide, but for those left behind, it opens a door to find the possible meaning of life,” Iranian-born Ramin Jahanbegloo, one of the world’s leading philosophers and most widely read authors, contends in his seminal book, “In Pursuit of Unhappiness – Reflections on Suicide” (Orient BlackSwan).
“Nonetheless, either as actors or spectators of the act of suicide, we in the present day and age cannot but conclude that human life is full of untold suffering and misery and that we are impotent in finding a meaning to this suffering. And, further, science tells us, since there is no life after death, what we are left with is only an endless questioning. Every human being knows that life in general, and more specifically the life of an individual is not so much an accomplishment as it is a possibility,” writes Jahanbegloo, currently the Executive Director of the Mahatma Gandhi Centre for Nonviolence and Peace Studies and the Vice-Dean of the School of Law at Jindal Global University in Sonepat.
“In other words, suicide is the last Stoic act by which the constructive marginals and dissenters of human civilization can show that they dominate their human destiny, and are not dominated by it. This freedom of ‘coming’ and ‘going’ in life belongs only to outsiders who struggle to preserve their marginality and autonomy in their lives and works,” the author of the pursuit of unhappiness maintains.
Marginality is “living on the edge, and not succumbing to the culture of the masses. It suggests an overcoming of the burden of servitude, much as that of old age and physical debilitation. Suicide produces a double shift in the process of everyday life. On the one hand, it fragments the absolute subjectivist ontology, by emerging as a sideline of the rational subject. On the other, suicide appears as a broken perception of the world which replaces and linear and monolithic everyday discourse of reality”, Jahanbegloo explains.
Thus, it becomes the exit from a world that places the human being under the authority of a closed system of values. “Therefore, if suicide is meaningless, then everything is futile and nothing matters. The despotism of God or the State of Society pushes the individual to respond to evil with the heroic act of annihilating the self, and to respond to a death with death,” the author of the pursuit of unhappiness writes. Noting that suicide “remains the last act of chivalry and integrity in a world of mediocrity and indifference”, Jahanbegloo says the writer or the artist who commits suicide “repeats the image of the selfless epic knight of yore who excludes all forms of pettiness and calculations in his heroic struggle against the monstrosity of evil and injustice”.
Paradoxically, the “morally courageous act of suicide goes hand in hand with the valourization of the lost cause that finally asserts itself as the heroism of the writer or artist. This need for the exaltation of moral courage of integrity in the face of tyranny and evil – regardless of its causes and the forms that it takes – and its degrading dehumanizing consequences can find its final answer in the act of suicide”, the author says.
Thus, whether in forms of tragic narratives or in real-life experiences, suicides of fictional and historical figures like Antigone, Socrates, Gerard de Narval. Virginia Woolf, Vladimir Mayakovsky, Walter Benjamin, Sadeq Hedayat, and Yukio Mishima “stand out as a protest against the mediocrity and meaninglessness of their times. Or perhaps, that is what happens when a beautiful mind encounters the ugliness and banality of others. Truly, it is in their suicides that these creators of art and animators of ideas found the real meaning of their lives”, the author asserts.
As such, “whenever we talk about suicide, we really mean being a spectator to one’s own death. But it is also at the same time, as (Albert) Camus, says, a re-evaluation of one’s life. The value of our life depends on the intent, the dignity, and the clarity with which we live it, among other things. The value of life also determines the value of its death”, the author points out. Therefore, like other life experiences, “one could say that suicide, too, is an experience that gives meaning to life, it is a journey toward shaping human destiny”.
“If the pursuit of unhappiness is a metaphysical dimension of humankind, then suicide is a possible way of transcending the vanity of an indifferent world and reaffirming our humanity,” Jahanbegloo concludes – and this is the spirit in which this book the pursuit of unhappiness needs to be taken. (IANS/JC)