Like every year at this time, the fight against a phenomenon that we know is not comfortable to talk about is emphasized: suicide. All the more reason to do it. Acting on this social and health problem is necessary for its prevention. And precisely by promoting information, deepening understanding and sharing experiences, we want to give people the confidence to ask for help. Preventing suicidal behavior requires that we all be able, at a given moment, to offer a little light to those who are blinded by suffering.
In Spain, for example, eleven people die every day by suicide. The general surprise that usually occurs when someone reveals this figure is only comparable to the importance of the issue. This is an urgent matter not only in Spain, but also a global problem that the World Health Organization warned about in 2014, referring to it as “a major public health problem that has been a taboo for too long”. ”. The most recent report from the National Institute of Statistics shows a sad record in Spain for this cause of death: almost 4,000 people.
This public health problem is not limited only to deaths by suicide, but to different manifestations, much more frequent, that include ideas of death, planning how to die, communication of suffering or suicidal thoughts and attempts to suicide.
It is not, therefore, a monolithic phenomenon, but can vary in intensity, control, duration, lethality, impulsiveness or functionality, among other aspects. And, in turn, the figures may vary depending on different factors, such as age, gender or educational level.
Support for families
In any case, each suicide or attempted suicide not only entails suffering for the person, but also for their families and close friends, who are often helpless, paralyzed and with few resources to turn to.
Thus, if prevention does not fulfill its mission, it would be necessary to offer support to the immediate environment of people who have died by suicide. It is the so-called post-vention that, currently, falls only in the hands of well-intentioned associations, foundations or groups that fulfill this important social function, without an abundance of institutional resources that provide this service.
Is it a health problem? Yes Is it a social problem? Yes Is it an individual or collective problem? Both aspects maintain a dialectical relationship irreducible to only one of its poles.
We find ourselves, then, before a complex, multidimensional and multifactorial phenomenon that is characterized by the presence of vital suffering and intolerable psychological pain in which a person, in a given circumstance (constructed as insufferable, insoluble, endless, inescapable, without future and without hope) decides to take his own life.
The reasons for the phenomenon
A wide range of factors in continuous interaction seems to explain the reasons why a person decides to commit suicide. Therefore, a causal interpretation of a linear or unicausal type (for example, mental health problems or depression) would not fit, but suicidal behaviors would have to be understood in the biographical, social and cultural contexts of people and in the presence of “meaning” in their suffering, as well as in the particular experience of their difficulties or vital crises. Any reductionism would imply dissolving the very essence of the phenomenon.
Suicide is preventable. The suicide prevention strategies proposed by the World Health Organization include levels of intervention in the social, community, interpersonal and individual spheres. Just as no one commits suicide for a single reason, neither does suicide prevention rest on a single event.
Some strategies to combat it
Depending on the population to which they are directed, prevention strategies are divided into universal, selective or indicated:
universal prevention is aimed at the entire population with the aim of raising awareness about the phenomenon of suicide, raising awareness and reducing stigma, removing barriers to access to health care systems, promoting help-seeking, mitigating the impact of crises or enhance social support and coping skills.
Some examples would be advertising campaigns, educational programs or providing guidelines for the media to offer responsible media information. Indeed, this article is an example of it.
selective prevention It is intended for specific groups of people who are more vulnerable because they find themselves in particularly difficult situations, in conflict or with little support or resources. Such would be the case of some professional groups, people with mental health problems and difficulties coping with the vicissitudes of life, the prison population, women during the perinatal period and victims of violence, catastrophes or wars, among others.
Finally, the strategies indicated prevention they target vulnerable people who are explicitly thinking of death by suicide as an alternative to the suffering that is present in their lives at that moment. These people should be appropriately referred to mental health professionals for a correct evaluation and understanding of the problem, together with an adequate clinical approach, skills training, support groups and specific psychological treatment.
Thus, the psychological therapies supported by the scientific literature offer the opportunity to discuss existential problems in a safe environment, where the psychology professional can validate the suffering of people with a wish to die (or, rather, to stop dying). live in the circumstances in which they are suffering) while reorienting them towards life with new coping strategies.
The implementation of interventions based on empirical evidence allows informed decision-making for suicide prevention, as well as adequate management of public resources. The involvement of each and every one of the agents of society is essential. Let us collaborate so that this work is not a flower of a single day.