Almost losing them was my first lesson in mental health.
I was in 9th grade when I first noticed. There were five of them. Five bloody red scratch lines on my best friend’s plump and white-as-snow arm. They didn’t seem fresh. She wasn’t trying to hide them either. In between classes she would conveniently disappear, only to come back with a puffy face and bloodshot eyes. I had a fair idea what was up. Her boyfriend had cheated on her again. He had killed her already dwindling self-esteem. Without saying much, I followed her stealthily as she left class and went into the washroom, a maths compass poking out of her pocket. She saw me and broke down. I held her till she could cry no more.
We sat there for a while missing our Maths class, which we both knew would invariably have caused more tears. I took the compass away and asked her to be strong, trying to make her believe he wasn’t worth it. Once she went home, I called her every hour to check if she was doing okay.
To be completely honest, until recently I had always thought that suicide was attempted by weak people. This is was what I told my friend as well when she in tears and said she didn’t see the point of living without him. But now I know better.
According to a 2012 World Health Organisation Report, India was the suicide capital of the world. Image source: sunshineandspoiltmilk.com
It was not a sudden realisation, but one that was a result of many personal interactions with suicide survivors, people seeking therapy for better mental health and various reports and stories that I chanced upon. It was also my own ongoing battle with severe anxiety and thoughts of self-harm post a terrifying panic attack, that I understood my own issues and those around me, much more intimately. Though I have never had suicidal thoughts and couldn’t even begin to compare my suffering to those who do, I can imagine the devastation, the helplessness and the emptiness that a person would have to go through to make the harrowing decision of ending their lives.
I started attracting people with similar issues. And a year ago I met a someone through a friend on a blind date. He had attempted suicide as a teenager. He told me how he was tired of falling sick all the time and spending more time in hospitals than at home, missing out on school and friendships. “I went and sat inside the water tank, knowing that as soon as my mother switched the motor on, I would die. But she sensed something was wrong and came and found me, scolding me for getting into 'mischief'. I felt this was the universe’s way of telling me to give it another chance and I did,” he said, his voice sounding distant. He sought help and took me to some of these mental health workshops and group sessions. We started dating soon, and it’s been one of the happiest periods of my life.
Another encounter that stayed with me was my meeting with Sanchana Krishnan, a 25-year-old woman who told me about her lasting pursuit of death and her battle with it. Brought up in the United Arab Emirates, Sanchana had always felt restless and went through fluctuating mood swings and sleeplessness.
“There were times when I knew something was off, I just didn’t know what.”
When she opened up to her mother, she didn't take her seriously. “Don’t worry. There is nothing wrong with you. You have always been a hyper kid,” she said.
It was only when Sanchana took up Psychology in high school that she realised she may have been bipolar. “All the symptoms matched. But I couldn’t do anything about it, not then. And I couldn’t even be sure,” she added.
Sanchana on a solo trip to Leh
Sanchana then moved to India for her Undergrad. Having left home for the first time, she felt lonelier than ever. She found solace in books and decided to pursue a Master’s degree in Literature from the UK, and even made it to the university of her choice. Happy for a chance to start life afresh, she spent the time doing various internships. It was here that she met a guy and started dating, but the relationship soon went south. Around the same time her visa to the UK got rejected because of bank statements. “I lost the will to live.” Her parents encouraged her to travel and find happiness there. “But even that couldn’t have saved me. My father got me a ticket to Nepal. All I thought of was jumping from a mountain over there.” One day it got too much. She couldn't take it anymore. She overdosed on pills and followed it with liquid bleach, hoping she wouldn’t get up.
But she did, feeling all the more devastated, questioning why her body had to vomit it all out. It took her a long time to decide to give life another chance. It took years even after that episode to finally get help from a good therapist. Today, she helps others going through similar problems. Having formally pursued expressive art-based therapy, she works with young adults combining psychology and various art forms, such as art, dance, writing, music, theatre and more.
Committing suicide is a task on the Blue Whale game
According to a report in Times Of India, 150 students commited suicide in 2017 because of pressure. Two months ago, we received the heartbreaking news of Anthony Bourdain’s suicide. A year ago, it was Chester Bennington. There were also many reported suicides of young people who got addicted to the ‘Blue Whale’ game. 5 of these were suspected to be from India.
Nobody should have to go through this. I learnt the hard way but I’m glad I did. I am more open about my feelings now and encourage others to do the same. At first, it may seem difficult and awkward to reach out, but each of us can help people lead better lives. All we have to be is sensitive, considerate and aware.
If you are struggling with suicidal thoughts and would like to seek help, or want to actively be part of suicide prevention, you can get in touch with SPIF (Suicide Prevention India Foundation) on email@example.com.
Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article are independent views solely of the author(s) expressed in their private capacity and do not in any way represent or reflect the views of 101India.com.
By: Priyanka Kapoor
Cover photo credit: Avijit Pathak