Understanding Suicide

TOUCH Mental Wellness

Understanding Suicide

Suicide is a difficult topic that many people feel apprehensive about broaching. Without the necessary knowledge needed to support vulnerable individuals with suicidal tendencies, we may never be able to address the stigma. This would deter people from seeking help when they really need it. Debunking negative beliefs about suicide begins with having conversations about it. This guide aims to help you understand suicide and how you can support yourself or others who are having suicidal thoughts.

The circumstances surrounding the choice for one to take their own life are often complex but can be narrowed down to the following common factors.

Strained or estranged relationships: Difficult circumstances or intense arguments with loved ones resulting in separation or complete abandonment puts people under immense emotional distress. Couples going through a divorce, children with unsupportive parents and lonely seniors with estranged family are examples of people who may be more likely to attempt suicide to escape their situation [1].

Mental health conditions: People with existing mental health conditions such as bipolar disorder, depression and anxiety tend to have higher suicide rates than those who do not [2]. These mental disorders can be passed down genetically in families [3] or result from traumatic events such as the sudden death of a loved one or an accident [4]. Other trauma-related mental conditions such as Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) also have a detrimental effect on a person's psyche. Without a proper way of unpacking their traumas and expressing their grief, people turn to suicide as the only way to end their suffering.

Financial problems: Entering poverty, becoming unemployed or accumulating debt could affect a person's standard of living and their mental state [5]. It is hard for people in tough financial situations to see the light at the end of the tunnel and they could respond to this stress through suicide ideation.

If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts, know that you are not alone. There are different avenues for you to express yourself and voice out your challenges and lift yourself from difficult life situations.

Practice journaling: It will be helpful to recognise the triggers for your suicidal thoughts and learn how to address these thoughts based on their intensity. Use journaling as a therapeutic method to express your thoughts and manage your emotions. Writing down your feelings can help to organise and structure your thoughts, thus providing some emotional margin to manage the external stress factors.

Confide in your loved ones: It is never easy to tell anyone, especially loved ones, about your suicidal thoughts. Identify trusted people in your social circles who can provide support when you need it [6]. If you are unsure of how to go about this, start by finding an appropriate time where you can have a one-on-one conversation with your loved one [6]. Once you overcome the hard part of starting the conversation and sharing these experiences, you might find it easier to push aside suicidal thoughts when they occur as you know that someone will be there to support you. Feeling loved and having a sense of belonging in your community goes a long way to prevent suicidal ideation and attempts.

Seek professional help: When you feel like the advice and comfort of your loved ones is not enough to combat your suicidal thoughts, it is best to seek professional help to manage your thoughts [6]. TOUCH Mental Wellness offers support for those who are distressed or having negative thoughts. You may call the TOUCHline at 1800 377 2252 (Mondays to Fridays, 9am to 6pm) to speak with a counsellor.

If you have loved ones with suicidal thoughts, there are practical ways to offer your help as well.

Listen without passing judgment: Some problems may seem minor to one person, but of immense importance to another. Likewise, one person’s seemingly insignificant issue might be deeply distressing to another [7]. Do not belittle your loved one’s struggles nor pass judgement on their situation. In fact, listening without judgement can reduce the shame that they may feel about suicide [8].

Ask how you can help: Other than asking them how they are feeling, have a conversation to learn about the best ways to support them. Find out if doing an activity that they enjoy together or having you check in on them at a specific time every day would help. You can consider making a card or sending them positive quotes to remind them that someone cares for them and is thinking of them. Regardless of how much you want to help, it's important to know your limits. If you find yourself unable to handle the situation or it's too dangerous to leave them alone, take them to the nearest emergency room immediately.

Create a safety plan: If you are a family member, remove any means the person may have for self-harm [7]. Ropes, scissors, pills and knives are examples of such items. If needed, stay up with them at night and help them come up with coping methods. Create a list of their loved ones' phone numbers to call when they are struggling, as well as the contact information of helplines and emergency services [9].

Despite it being a leading cause of death, suicide is preventable. Confide in your loved ones and seek professional help if you are struggling. When we work as a community, we can increase awareness, educate one another and mobilize the resources to help those who are contemplating suicide.

TOUCH Mental Wellness (TMW) runs personalised therapy and counselling programmes to empower individuals to rise above their circumstances. An advocate of mental wellness, TMW has been organising mental wellness awareness mass runs, talks and workshops since 2015. It works closely with corporations to conduct mental wellness talks with an aim of equipping employees with handles to cope with stress and help them build resilience. It also specialises in mental wellness awareness and educational programmes for schools.

1. Schimelpfening, Nancy. “Why Do People Commit Suicide?” Verywell Mind, Verywell Mind, 19 Feb. 2021, https://www.verywellmind.com/why-do-people-commit-suicide-1067515
2. Brådvik, Louise. “Suicide Risk and Mental Disorders.” International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health, vol. 15, no. 9, 17 Sept. 2018, https://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/15/9/2028 
3. “Frequently Asked Questions about Suicide.” National Institute of Mental Health, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, https://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/publications/suicide-faq 
4. Zapata, Kimberly. “Financial Stress Is a Leading Catalyst for Suicide-These Steps Can Help Save Lives.” Health, Health, 25 Aug. 2021, https://www.health.com/money/financial-stress-suicide-risk.
5. “Suicide.” World Health Organization, World Health Organization, 28 Aug. 2023, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/suicide 
6. “How to Tell Someone You Are Feeling Suicidal - Spunout.” Spunout, Spunout, https://spunout.ie/mental-health/suicide/tell-someone-feeling-suicidal 
7. “Understanding Suicide” Montana State University, Montana State University, https://www.montana.edu/counseling/selfhelp/suicide-understanding.html 
8. “How to help when someone is suicidal” Sane, Sane, https://www.sane.org/information-and-resources/facts-and-guides/sane-steps-how-to-help-when-someone-is-suicidal 
9. “Supporting someone who feels suicidal” Mind, Mind, https://www.mind.org.uk/information-support/helping-someone-else/supporting-someone-who-feels-suicidal/making-a-support-plan/