I am reminded of one of my college mates who ended his life in college days. He was my junior, a very intelligent boy, wanted to be a great surgeon like his uncle. Suddenly in final year MBBS went into a depressive phase. He would meet me in library always. He appeared dull, disinterested one day. I bothered him I think. I asked him ‘what’s wrong’. He said everything. He expressed that he wished he would end his life one day. He felt life isn’t worth living.
I was really surprised, how could this fellow a class topper, whose father was a scientist abroad, mother a leading doctor and only son of his parents talk like this. I now feel bad that I wasn’t a psychiatrist yet. I spent few hours that day with him convincing him, within my limitations ‘how lucky we are to be human beings’, ‘how he should think positively’ how he should gear himself up with everyday exercise, a bit of yoga etc’. Sadly, I forgot that day. I remember him telling that ‘he was not able to concentrate’ ‘his mind would often become blank’. I finished my internship and was happily married and all this was in a Span of 6 months from that day. No more had I thought of him, except remembering to send my wedding invite. There were no cell phones those days. Two days after my marriage I got a call to my residence. His mother sobbing wished me and told me he had ‘indeed ended his life by hanging’. He wasn’t alive even to receive my wedding invite .He told many like me, who gave a helping ear, but not a helping hand. All gave him their ‘pep talk’. I forgot him after that last meeting of ours, but once I heard his mother, he has haunted my memories for ever. Every ‘suicide’ I see as a psychiatrist, every suicide I read on paper, heard on TV, reminds me of him and my ignorance .
Dear friends, remember when a friend of yours talks of suicide, be serious. Talk to him, try to take him to your college counseling cell. Many ‘suicide completers’ talk of suicide openly, few leave clues like giving away their pet possessions, sending SMS about their feelings of ending their life or make some failed attempts. Suicides in student days are usually impulsive secondary to exam failure or love failure, or as a result of psychiatric illness like depression or psychosis. Many of these people we make fun of calling them ‘eccentric’ or ‘loonies’ may actually be suffering from psychiatric disorders, needing treatment. A few suicide attempters may be addicted to substances like alcohol/sleeping pills/cough syrups. Addiction ,depression and suicide are a dangerous triad in college. So whenever you hear somebody talking of ‘suicide’ be watchful and consider the following:
- Report to your or his mentor teacher.
- Inform his close blood relative if possible.
- Don’t keep him or her alone.
- Gather the support of few well-wishers who are not ‘All India Radios'(I mean gossip mongers’), see if your college has a counseling cell,if so take him there.
- If he is not willing,go and inform a counselor in the counseling cell. If their is no counseling cell, consult a psychiatrist in your medical college or in your town. Take their help or advice.
- More than all this ‘BE AVAILABLE TO HIM’.’DONT GIVE HIM PEP TALKS, HEAR HIM MORE’.
(Name,Antecedents have been changed to maintain confidentiality)
About the Author: Dr. P.V. Bhandary is a well-known Psychiatrist in Udupi and Medical Director at Dr. A.V.Baliga Memorial Hospital at Doddanagudde, Udupi. He was selected for CADABMA’S distinguished Psychiatrist Award 2012. This award is initiated for his outstanding services to the marginalized section of the society in the field of psychiatry. The award was presented to him at Bangalore in presence of His Excellency Dr. H.R Bharadwaj, Governor of Karnataka, His Excellency Dr. K Rosaiah, Governor of Tamil Nadu, and His Grace Dr. Bernard Moras, Archbishop of Bangalore and other dignitaries.