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It's Too Late For Pratyusha, But You Can Still Save Someone's Life

05/04/2016 8:21 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:26 AM IST
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MUMBAI, INDIA � JULY 23: Pratyusha Banerjee, who plays the new grown-up Anandi in the serial Ballika Vadhu, during a press conference in Mumbai on July 23, 2010. (Photo by Yogen Shah/India Today Group/Getty Images)

"She seemed to be doing just fine."

"She had a few personal issues but there was nothing to suggest she would take such a step."

The suicide of actress Pratyusha Banerjee raises the uncomfortable question: could more have been done to prevent her from taking her life?

Unfortunately, the answer is yes.

Any number of reasons can cause a person to entertain suicidal thoughts. Their faith has been broken, their hopes ripped. That is not something that heals in 10 minutes. But it can be healed. And you can be the healer. If you would indulge me, I would like to share with you my two cents on how you can save the life of someone you know.

1. Look beyond the mask

Do you know someone who fits one or a combination of the points below?

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Image Source: Fairfieldadamh

Is there somebody whose smile seems false, vanishing the moment they believe no one is watching? Somebody who has lost something important to them in life? Perhaps more urgently, have they given up even the pretence of a fake smile? Do their words seem to focus more on the lack of a reason to continue; a preoccupation with death?

If you truly believe that someone's depression is contagious and will spoil your day, surely you must also believe that your happiness is just as infectious?

This is important because four out of five people who commit suicide give clear warning signs prior to the attempt. You can identify them. You can save them.

2. Involve rather than isolate

I understand how you may feel that listening to someone who is sad will spoil your day. So here is my counter-argument.

If you truly believe that someone's depression is contagious and will spoil your day, surely you must also believe that your happiness is just as infectious? That it could make someone else's day better. Spending 10 minutes with them today will cost you nothing but your gesture may give them the will to last one more day.

3. Talk frankly

Talking to someone who is on the edge of committing suicide is as hard as conversations can be, especially if you have no solution to their aggravating factor. That is okay.

Don't talk about the weather or sports and walk away, thinking you have done your part and they should have opened up if they wanted to talk about what was in their mind. Actively bring up the topic. Let them know you are aware of their pain and they don't need this mask around you.

If the warning bells in your head start ringing, do not back away but ask the all-important question:"My friend, are you thinking of committing suicide?"

If the warning bells in your head start ringing, do not back away but ask the all-important question:"My friend, are you thinking of committing suicide?"

You would be surprised by how many would answer in the positive, if they were just asked this question.

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4. Listen rather than solve

We may not be able to provide solutions but we can always provide support. Listening to them talk will not make you feel suicidal but it will unburden the pain in their heart and you become the new voice of reason here, their own voice that is blocked within their head.

5. Do not mock their pain

They don't need you to tell them they are being silly just because they lost in love or an exam. Do not belittle them. Our feelings are always relative. What may seem like a usual failed teenage love story to you could mean the world to them.

6. Do not guilt them

One of the commonest mistakes you will make is to use guilt as a defining factor to short-circuit their sorrows.

"Think of your parents."

"Suicide is a sin. God will not grant you entry into heaven."

No. Stop that line of thought! Shaming someone who is standing on the edge only further reminds them of how they are "a failure and causing more suffering to others" by their deeds. Debating the value of their life is not a solution, no matter how many times it may seem to work in movies.

By simply reminding them that we are looking forward to seeing them tomorrow, we open up a door that they have closed

7. Show them they matter

Most people who survive a suicide attempt speak of how they did not really want to die. They just wanted to "be wanted". This is where you truly come in. By showing them that you value their presence in your life. Be kind but firm. Remind them why and what you value in your relationship with them.

8. Take away any means of suicide

If you know they have come in possession of a possible source to end their life (drugs, a weapon etc.), do not hesitate to confiscate it. I know this goes against the whole "be kind" principle but it is necessary. Do not leave them alone but get them to a safe place where someone who cares for them (a parent, spouse, loved one) can keep an eye on them.

9. We will see you tomorrow

"We'll see you tomorrow" was the campaign of "To Write Love on Her Arms" for National Suicide Prevention Week in 2015.

This sentence is so simple and yet I find it so profound. I honestly would ask you to end all your conversation with these words. After all, we never know who is wearing a mask to hide their pain.

In the two hours it took me to write this draft, 180 people around the world have committed suicide.

By simply reminding them that we are looking forward to seeing them tomorrow, we open up a door that they have closed--we show them that somebody does care for their presence.

10. Come back the next day

Because it takes more than a few minutes to stop the flood of emotions within them. Because the tendency for suicide will return. And so will the sense of loneliness. But most importantly, because you are a true friend. And you want your friend to survive.

In the two hours it took me to write this draft, 180 people around the world have committed suicide. Nearly 8,00,000 people successfully commit suicide every year and it remains the second largest cause of death in age groups 15-29. And each death could have perhaps been prevented if just one friend had taken a few extra moments to let that person know that their life mattered.

Be that friend to someone today. Save a life with your kindness.

I will see you tomorrow.

This article first appeared on Godyears.

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