LivingKeys to preventing suicide

Keys to preventing suicide

Around 3,600 people die each year in our country as a result of suicide. Despite the fact that this number triples that of deaths in traffic accidents , the lack of visibility of this reality, on which a great social stigma weighs and whose impact goes beyond the victim himself, as it completely shakes his social environment and family, prevents articulating the necessary prevention mechanisms.

According to psychiatrists, in 90% of cases a depressive disorder is present, so if the way of treating this disorder could be improved, we would have a kind of firewall with which to try to tackle the serious problem of suicide. In fact, as indicated by Ana González-Pinto, president of the Spanish Society of Biological Psychiatry (SEPB), different studies show that early treatment of depression contributes to reducing the number of deaths due to suicide.

With this link in mind, the SEPB, together with the Spanish Society of Psychiatry and the Spanish Foundation of Psychiatry and Mental Health, have promoted a statement that includes eight key ideas that could be used to prevent suicidal behavior. The initiative has the collaboration of the Janssen company and has also received the support of different scientific entities, such as the Spanish Society of Hospital Pharmacy, the Spanish Society of General and Family Physicians or the Spanish Society of Emergency and Emergency Medicine. The General Alliance of Patients, the ANAED Foundation, the After Suicide Association and the FFPaciente Association have joined it.

Prevention, beyond the health field

In the first place, the statement indicates that it is urgent to promote a national plan against suicide that has a defined budget and that unifies the response offered by the autonomous communities. Furthermore, it is emphasized that this response cannot be solely health: prevention policies must go beyond the social sphere and also reach schools.

Along the same lines, the signatories consider that it is necessary to fight against the stigma that weighs on depression and suicide, with social communication campaigns that do not trivialize depressive symptoms. In this sense, the media play a key role in promoting non-sensational information that focuses on the alternatives that exist for people at risk. It is also necessary to improve the training of health center professionals in the management of this problem and to routinely incorporate questions that clarify whether there is a possible death wish in consultations with these patients.

The declaration also states that it is essential to bet on research and innovation and facilitate access to them; and that to improve the early detection of people at risk, especially in minors, it is necessary to recognize a specialty of child and adolescent psychiatry that provides the necessary training. Finally, it is indicated that new tools should be established to quantify all cases –those are most likely more than those collected by official statistics– and that it would be convenient to consider failed attempts.

Warning signs

Specialists agree that the main risk factor for suicide is depression. For this reason, they recommend being alert if, beyond what would be an episode of sadness, someone in our environment does not seem to be able to face the day to day for several days or weeks.

Insomnia, anxiety or the inability to relax are equally indications that something may be wrong and should not be neglected. According to experts, if we observe in our relatives a lack of interest in enjoying, hopelessness or prolonged despondency in the face of the loss of a vital project, it is essential to offer support and, above all, seek the help of a professional.

By Esther Martín del Campo

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