One life lost is one too many: Understanding suicide

Emilita Krisanti Cornain

Clinical psychologist at the International Wellbeing Center

Jakarta

Jakarta   /  Wed, August 1, 2018  /  02:25 pm

According to a 2015 WHO report, three suicide deaths occur per 100,000 individuals in Indonesia. (Shutterstock/File)

Suicide is never easy. It is never easy to cope with the aftermath of a suicide, regardless of who committed suicide – whether a celebrity or someone we know. It is also difficult because suicide often raises more questions than answers: Why? They had all the money and success anyone could dream of, so why did they commit suicide? Why didn't they seek help? Why did it have to end like this? Didn’t they think about how it would affect their family? How could they be so selfish?

All these questions often leave those who have been left behind more frustrated, and with even more questions.

One thing is certain: any suicide is devastating. However, refraining from talking about or trying to understand the event would also be equally devastating.

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that one person commits suicide every 40 seconds in the world, which translates into approximately 800,000 deaths by suicide each year. WHO also states, "Suicide occurs throughout the lifespan and is the second leading cause of death among 15-29 year olds globally."

According to a 2015 WHO report, three suicide deaths occur per 100,000 individuals in Indonesia. However, it is difficult to gauge the real figure due to potential underreporting, which may be linked to the social stigma surrounding death by suicide and mental illness. Death by suicide, especially in Indonesia, is still considered taboo and “sinful”. The major religions in Indonesia say that suicide is a sin. The stigma can be so strong that, following the suicide of a relative, a family might report the death as anything but suicide.

Trying to brush the issue aside will not change anything. Change will come from doing the opposite: The more we talk about suicide to try and understand it, the more we become aware of the need to make mental healthcare accessible, the more we can prevent suicide.

Risk factors

Suicide is a complex issue that is rarely attributed to a single factor or event. Studies have shown that a combination of biological, psychological and social factors is associated with an individual's increased vulnerability to suicide.

There are risk factors that can be changed, such as substance abuse, yet there are also risk factors that cannot be changed, like a family history of suicide or the sudden death of a loved one. It is important to underline that these risk factors might not directly lead to suicide. For instance, having mental health issues does not directly cause someone to commit suicide, but could be a likely cause in combination with other factors.

The risk factors of suicide include:

Protective factors

It is also important to recognize and understand the protective factors against suicide. Protective factors help protect individuals from suicidal thoughts and prevent suicide attempts.

These protective factors include:

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Emilita Krisanti "Santi" Cornain is a clinical psychologist at the International Wellbeing Center who is trained in cognitive behavior therapy, and often combines mindfulness and solution-focused strategies in her practice. Santi completed her undergraduate degree in psychology through the double-degree program at the University of Indonesia and the University of Queensland, Australia; she holds a clinical psychology doctorate from Australia's Griffith University. Outside of work, Santi can be found playing with her energetic toddler, reading novels or searching for the next best vegetarian dish in town.