Commissioner for Mental Health committed to remove stigma surrounding discussions on suicide

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Suicide is a human issue and when we start to look at it as such, it opens the door for better conversations and the normalisation of treatment in society. This was the message from the Commissioner for Mental Health, Dr John M Cachia, for World Suicide Prevention Day.

World Suicide Prevention Day was observed on Thursday 10th September and it is about putting light on dark thoughts that need to be said out loud.

Suicide can affect anyone regardless of race, ethnicity, religion, socio-economic background, gender and age, as no-one is immune to it.

The Commissioner for Mental Health explained that 2-3 persons die by suicide every month in Malta. Data from Malta has been stable for many years. Around 90% of deaths by suicide in Malta are males. Extreme distress, severe depression, mood disorders and emotional pain are the main reasons why people experience wishes to die.

The Commissioner explained how those with suicidal thoughts need to know that they can talk to a friend, family member or therapist without being labelled or stigmatised as the most challenging conversations to have are usually the ones we need to have the most.

“It is a hard number to swallow, but more than 75% of suicidal people tell someone what they are going to do and when they are going to do it. This is where suicide prevention starts. If many who attempt suicide give some clue or warning, then we need to look out for the signs. Statements like “You’ll be sorry when I’m gone,” “I can’t see any way out,”- no matter how casually or jokingly said – may indicate serious suicidal feelings,” explained Dr John M Cachia.

The Commissioner for Mental Health has also issued a set of guidelines of what once can do if they know of someone who is struggling;

  • If you are worried someone is suicidal, it is okay to ask them directly. Research shows that this helps – because it gives them permission to tell you how they feel, and it shows that they are not a burden
  • Once someone starts to share how they are feeling, it is important to listen. This could mean not offering advice, not trying to identify what they are going through with your own experiences and not trying to solve their problems
  • If you, or someone close to you, is struggling to cope, you need to know care and help are available. There are experienced trained professionals who are ready to apply tried and tested techniques to stop suicidal thoughts in their tracks

For World Suicide Prevention Day, the Commissioner has also issued tips for coping with suicidal thoughts;

  • Try not to think about the future – just focus on getting through today, make a plan
  • Resist taking drugs and alcohol, especially if you are alone
  • Get yourself to a safe place, like a friend’s house, or video call if you cannot go in person
  • Be around other people
  • Do something you usually enjoy, no matter how small

The Commissioner for Mental Health mentioned how the coronavirus pandemic has brought mixed emotions: fear, distress, sadness, mood instability and loneliness and most people have been able to get over these feelings but we must be on the lookout for those who have not been able to take control of their emotions as there may still be longer term effects that we are not seeing yet.

In his message for World Suicide Prevention Daythe Commissioner noted how people experiencing suicidal thoughts do not want to end their lives. Even those with severe depression have mixed feelings about dying. Suicidal thoughts can be more about stopping the pain and the misery and seeking help and getting treatment will set the person on the path to recovery.