‘Jumping’ and suicide prevention

At times like this, offering people hope when they feel they have nothing to lose is the best approach to help them

Graphic by MZUKRI

SEVERAL suicide attempts have made the news headlines during the past few months. The most recent one reportedly happened in Jinjang Utara, Kuala Lumpur, involving a gentleman’s attempt to jump off a at.

It is not uncommon that cases of “jumping” occur in places where there are high-rise buildings. Skyscrapers in New York City, for example, often draw individuals who are determined to jump to their deaths.

Superficially, jumping off a tall building or bridges can be seen as a once-and-for-all solution to end one’s miseries from the unbearable pain, depression and hopelessness.

It is driven by one’s desire and intent to end their own life and sever the ties from the world permanently.

According to the National Institute for Mental Health, attempts to “jump” not only result in fatal injury, but also additional trauma to those who witness it, let alone people who experience it.

Numerous factors can lead to suicidal tendencies in a person. Besides mental illness, prolonged stress from social and economic declines are to be blamed for individuals engaging in suicidal acts.

It is even more so in a ravaging pandemic that produces “Covid stress” with catastrophic implications.

From the fear of infection, layoffs due to business closures to the loss of income sources and the anxieties that arise from uncertainties further exacerbated the emotional tolls due to the limited social interaction that drives individuals into loneliness.

There are also the stresses in domestic households — family conflicts, physical, sexual and psychological abuse — and in healthcare settings with medical staff inundated with pressures and emotional burnouts in treating Covid-19 patients. These stressors contribute to the decline in mental health, which can present as mental health disorders, including mood disorder.

Suicide rates have risen dramatically as a result of the pandemic’s devastating consequences on human’s psychology and emotional wellbeing.

It is a mental health crisis, and in an already toxic environment, interventions are urgently needed for affected individuals.

Unfortunately, reaching out to them for proper assistance and treatment is complicated because many are silently suffering.

Extending emotional and counselling support is critical, and it is crucial to let them know that they matter, so they don’t plunge further into the darkness.

At times like this, offering people hope when they feel they have nothing to lose is the best approach to help them.

The public should be aware of the mental health resources available to them. The Health Ministry has established a registry of the National Suicide and Fatal Injuries and mobilised mental health and psychosocial service teams in all states and districts to assist individuals affected by the pandemic crisis.

Identifying hotspot location where suicide attempts have previously occurred and the installation of additional barriers could allow for a “buying of time” that gives the individuals a chance to reconsider his or her actions. This is a critical time window for intervention.

In New Zealand, there have been no suicide cases reported at the Grafton Bridge in Auckland between 2002 and 2015 when brand-new barriers with an “improved, curved design” were re-installed.

It is worth exploring the efficiency of barrier installation at the “jumping” hotspots considering the additional expenses it will incur.

Whether suicides have occurred previously in the location is not up for debate. Even one suicide is too many.

Other prevention measures are also required because no single measure can solve suicide attempts that are far more complex.

Strengthening family and community support can be done at the community level. A simple exchange of greetings around the neighbourhood is sufficient to convey the feeling that “we are all in this together”.

Most importantly, we must show multiple efforts to assist them to reflect a compassionate society that cares about them.

  • Dr Farhana Sabri,
    Universiti Sains Islam Malaysia.

The views expressed are of the writer and do not necessarily reflect the stand of the newspaper’s owners and editorial board.