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World Suicide Prevention Day 2020: Time to Update Our Vocabulary and Understanding of Mental Health

Suicide is an extremely sensitive topic that has been dominating our news lately. The tragic death, and subsequent investigation, of Sushant Singh Rajput, have shone a light on the various ways Indian society, media, and individuals misrepresent mental health issues

There is a growing need for sensitization towards mental health and its varied topics. With the Covid-19 pandemic raging on, more Indians than ever have been facing a mental health issue. However, our situation wasn’t the best pre-pandemic either as India has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world, with an estimated 17% of all suicides originating in India

Our newspapers and news channels are filled with daily reports of death by suicide by people of all genders, classes, and castes. Some of the most common reasons for suicide are cited as financial struggles, low marks in exams, debts, abuse, and domestic violence. Thus, it is of no surprise that the male to female suicide ratio in India is about 2:1

Did you know that suicide was illegal under the Indian Penal Code, and the survivor could face up to 1 year of jail time until 2014?

This is where the phrase ‘committed suicide’ comes from, as suicide was illegal in many countries. However, the conversations surrounding mental health are more nuanced now, and therefore, there is a growing demand for a change in language. 

As with any sensitive matter, the choice of words and language used has a massive impact on the perception of said issue. This is why mental health professionals and other experts are campaigning to change the phrase ‘committed suicide’ to ‘died by suicide.’ This removes any element of criminality from our vocabulary and allows society to continue important conversations regarding suicidal behavior, thoughts, ideation, and risk without stigmatization. 

This World Suicide Prevention Day, let’s all update our outdated vocabulary regarding mental health concerns and suicide. Let’s focus on the causes of suicide and how we can lower these numbers. Let’s try and reach out to our loved ones and practice compassion, acceptance, and active listening. 

This is a difficult time, and none of us can or should go through this alone. A small gesture can be the difference between life and death so remember to support each other, love each other, and practice empathy. 

If you or a loved one are struggling with your mental health, please reach out to someone – a friend, family member, or mental health professional.

It’s high time we make our mental health a priority.

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