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Much of what makes people suicidal is hard to talk about. Shame often plays a major role. Even a suicide note may not always tell us the real reason someone opts out of life (Suicide support system still fragmented, current strategies need a review, ST Online, Dec 5; and Have a 3-digit hotline for mental health emergencies, Dec 3).
Sometimes, a suicide seems like it came out of nowhere. A suicidal person may conceal his "dark" thoughts well, appear exuberant about life, and the next moment he is gone.
When a person is suicidal, his reasoning capabilities can be so impaired that any attempt to see a future self who might feel better, as well as consideration of the harm that would be caused to loved ones, can be tragically blinded.
Mental illness alone does not cause suicide. It may be true that many suicides are linked to underlying psychiatric conditions, but many are not. It is being aware that one is mentally ill, and believing that others who know about it are judgmental, that makes mentally ill people so vulnerable to taking their own lives.
It is therefore crucial to understand how suicidal urges work. People should be taught to recognise suicide's hypnotic spell and to wait long enough for it to wear off.
Education in suicide prevention should also include studying how we, as a society, think about suicide.
One of the things we can do for young and vulnerable people is to help them navigate emotionally through their disappointments in life. Shielding our loved ones from disappointments not only does them a disservice, but also places them at risk of maladjustment when a major crisis arises.
Sherman Goh Keng Hwee