TALKING SOMEONE OUT OF SUICIDE
MAY 13, 2019 @ 7.42 AM
“You’ve got a very colourful past, Lisa,” said the manager from the opposite side of the table. After an-hour-and-a-half at yet another job interview, he dismisses her - leaving her not even with a glimmer of hope as she walks out the building.
Each step made her weary as she was fearful of being thrown out again. The little that she had was barely enough for the next few months.
A series of events in her life - a painful childhood and an abuse victim, domestic violence in both her marriages and how David had left her four months back without notice - clouded her mind and stabbed her heart with immense pain as she cajole the thought of turning to family for assistance.
Her second marriage - just as the first had failed. But it wasn’t as bad as the first when she lost both her children in a bitter divorce. The mind echoed this thought with voices that rung clear in her head of how her first daughter - Caitlin sat on the table with her nappy - smothered in dough while she baked cookies. Or the moment when she brought home her second daughter - Deandra, the excitement, laughter, or how she used to tie a towel around her neck - pretending to be the children’s favourite Marvel comic hero - Superman - chasing them around the house and how they used to giggle.
Swinging open the door to a six by 10 feet empty room - which she rented after selling nearly all the furniture and electrical items in the previous house with David - for money to sustain herself, she sat on the cold marble floor.
Her stomach up in knots, throat dry, heart palpitating faster than usual.
“You’re useless and pathetic. You’ve lost everything. No family - no children, no friends. If you died - no one would mourn your death,” said the voice in her head.
The voices within - were ruthless and wouldn’t let go. Sobbing, she reaches out for the boxcutter and decides that, that is the best course of action to end her pain.
None judgemental listening
This situation may sound familiar to you or you may have known someone who lost their battle in life after years of struggling. Although the modern society has gadgets within arms reach, the society we live in today is more isolated and generally view those who are emotionally distressed as weaklings, often shutting them out.
Befrienders that offers non-judgemental listening is a 24-hour telephone helpline that has been operating in Malaysia since 1970.
Operating every day in eight centres across the country, the call centre gives emotional support to those who are distressed - suicidal.
“Our vision is to live in a world where less people want to end their lives. This is done by helping to alleviate distress by offering a non-judgemental listening to someone who is troubled. Our hope is that one would not progress or deteriorate to having greater problems and thereby leading to senses of helplessness, hopelessness, despair and suicide,” said Justin Victor, Chairman, Befrienders Kuala Lumpur.
24,000 calls as of 2018
In the last few years, the number of calls the centre received has been spiralling up.
“We’ve had 20,000 to 21,000 and the last three years in 2016 it was 21,500 calls, (2017) 22,000 and (2018) 24,000 calls. Besides that, email has also grown. First, a few hundreds and up to last year 6,000 with an average of 500 emails coming in every month,” explained Justin.
He added that the emails were a preferred way of reaching out for certain group of people especially the younger ones who prefer to write rather than talk on the phone.
“For that, we have also been training and preparing several of our befrienders within our organisation to respond and to help, basically to befriend through the writing mode – through email.
Type of calls
“We have all ages and races. Our operation itself is non-sectarian, non – religious and is not bent towards any philosophies. The whole thing is just giving a ear – doing active listening – with those who call in. So, its attracted people largely English speaking and from other vernaculars such as Bahasa Malaysia, Tamil and Chinese.
50% of callers are below the age of 40, 15% below 20 which means there are some teenagers as young as 14/15 years old who are already calling in.
While revealing that most callers present with issues related to relationships, mental health, family, job, social difficulties or battling an illness, Justin emphasised that 35% of them have suicide ideation; either thinking or have been thinking of wanting to end their life.
“35% is a large number out of 24,000 per year. Daily, there are 60 to 70 calls. It doesn’t seem like there is a fix pattern as to when there are more calls. Weekends are about the same number, whether it is a holiday or not – it seems to be averaging around the same.
“Night calls which is available around the clock seem to present with problems related to insomnia.”
A typical call
The common thread for calling, he said, is being alone, having no one to talk too, just needing someone to listen them out and not judge.
“It’s a matter of loneliness, feeling isolated, because of all the other things that has been happening to them, a sense of hopelessness and helplessness.
“People call us because there are no one else that they can talk too - open up and tell their deepest issues without being judged because all the calls are totally confidential. They can call and not give their real name, they have the right to end the call at any time - we don’t keep caller identifications because we don’t have their number - so that allows a lot of people the freedom to call.
“We don’t do problem solving as an approach - quite strictly because we cannot really understand a person in a short call.
“A strong believe of ours is to help them let out the pain that is going on emotionally. So, we focus a lot on feelings - the depth of the pain, allowing people to talk and hopefully through that - giving them some insight to what is happening in their life. From that, they would be better able to deal with issues or problems for themselves. What better way there is than to empower someone and give them the support while they are lonely and unsupported by others,” he explained.
The calls are not limited to a fixed amount of time as it varies according to each individual and the situation that they have at hand.
Justin described them to a regular 15 - 20 minutes to an hour or an-hour-and-a-half depending on the depth of the issue and the need to talk more.
“If someone is actively suicidal, or at the moment or very close to wanting to actually take their life, that kind of calls can actually go one up to two hours. So, there is no real limit to the time,” he added.
This service is good for people who are restricted by the amount of time professionals can give to them. Again, Justin stressed that Befrienders do not pretend to be professionals of any kind.
“We are not intending to be in place of mental health professionals - psychiatrist, psychologist, counsellors - but our role is adjunct or supplementary for the times in which they cannot reach or see a mental health professional or for some reason haven’t even started to see a mental health professional. So, that’s where our role comes in.
Public education is another central part of Befrienders as those are pre-emptive and pro-active measures to really stop people from deteriorating to the point of despair. Talks on the various aspects of mental health are regularly held in communities, colleges, universities, schools, non-governmental organisations to corporate bodies to create awareness while learning simple skills on how to help themselves as well as others.
The culture of colourism: The obsession with lighter skin tones driving opportunities in the skin lighteners market
Arson, animal cruelty and lack of remorse - traits of personality disorders to look out for in a person
Astrazeneca signs MoA with InvestKL to improve access to healthcare, explore digital transformation in the management of diseases
Roche launch Perjeta - Herceptin combination, a post surgery treatment for early breast cancer (eBC)
Keytruda with chemotherapy to be the first line of treatment for patients with advanced lung cancer
33% below 15 exposed to sexual intercourse, at higher risk of developing cervical cancer says oncologist
Breast cancer survivor emphasizes on monthly self-examination, says no alternative therapy, magic pill for cure