A mental health expert says social media statuses could provide a hint about a person’s suicidal thoughts and he has encouraged people contemplating suicide to use stress coping mechanisms such as crying.
Solomon David Chomba, a Mental Health and Psychiatrist Clinical Associate working at Mzuzu central hospital and also runs his private clinical practice in Luwinga, made the remarks in an interview with Malawi24.
He was commenting on the recent rise in reported cases of suicide in the country.
According to Police in Lilongwe, 128 cases of suicide were reported between September 2018 and June 2019 and there were also 5 cases of attempting suicide. Out of the 133 people who killed or tried to kill themselves, only 5 were women.
Chomba said there are several factors that lead people to contemplate of suicide, but the most precipitator is poor stress coping mechanism coupled with self-adjustment disorder.
“In life problems are part and parcel of our day to day living. Naturally each person has inbuilt natural stress coping mechanisms whose capacity differs from one person to another. You will find that a similar stressor, someone will go through it and while the other one fails to overcome it. Such group of people who easily gets overtaken by stress are deemed to have poor stress coping mechanisms and are the most vulnerable to suicide. Due to their inability to overcome a particular stressful event by their own coping mechanism, their brain easily gives up and they feel hopeless about themselves and then develop negative thoughts about themselves for failing to go through what has come on their way.
“This then leads to sense of guilt about their weakness to overcome a particular stress. These negative thoughts and feelings about themselves perpetuates suicide ideation, suicide plans and suicide attempts as a sign of giving up,” he said.
He added that people who are planning suicide show chronological signs and symptoms like loss of interest in previously pleasurable activities and friends.
They may also communicate to others about death such as saying that death is important, death brings rest, and question why they are not dying or why they were born.
According to Chomba, some signs also include death related social media statuses or sensitive statuses which points to giving up on something or wishing to die.
“Some will always be shy of others and choose to stay isolated and ignore all public places. They do this as a result of an inside fight for deciding to soon separate from friends and they feel ashamed for making that decision. While others will start clearing all the debts they had with people and mending relationships with those they ever quarreled with. And most of the times people will be surprised with the action done but can’t recognize that it’s a sign of suicide plan. Some will even pay visits to friends and relatives they have never visited nor greeted,” he said.
On stress coping, Chomba said men always think that they are strong and they keep most issues to themselves unlike women who frequently shares stories with others.
He noted that most men carry a heavy load of responsibilities as breadwinners especially with the extended family pattern in societies and they may feel that that there is no hope of getting out and the only remedy is to rest through death.
“Again it is believed to say that a man does not cry (mwamuna salira) which is opposite to women who easily cry whenever they are emotionally down or suppressed. Crying is another stress coping mechanism similarly to laughing which is mostly done by women than men,” he said.
He urged people to desist from encouraging negative thoughts to those already in stressful situation.
Chomba also expressed concern over issues such as failure to understand and support those who are in stressful situation, making jokes to those who are giving suicide warning signals like in various social media statuses, sidelining the underprivileged and vulnerable members in a family or community, treating those with deviant and using negative approach instead of using a positive approach.
In an interview, a young man in Lilongwe said he contemplated suicide and was detached from his relations.
He, however, said he is now a changed young man with a lot of ambition and is studying Motor Vehicle Mechanics at Lilongwe Technical College. He added that he wants to set up his own company when he is done with his studies and employ others.
Asked how now he manages to cope up with stress, he said after being admitted twice at a mental hospital, he was equipped with knowledge on how to handle such burning times.
“One effective way is to cry more whenever you have some issues and share to people around you, it relieved some emotions,” he said.