When we create an eco-system of real support system around us, we will see fewer suicides happening around us. This blog tells you five ways you can become part of that support eco-system.
One afternoon in March 2017, I was working from my home office in my apartment in Bangalore. It was around past noon, and I was in a good mood, we had just cracked an excellent business deal. I generally take frequent movement breaks while working. That day was no different. I went to the balcony of our 4th floor home, to simply soak myself into some fresh air and greenery. That’s when I heard a THUD! My curiosity led me to the origin of the sound, and I saw an unusual commotion below my balcony.
In a few mins, realizing that someone was lying unconscious there, I ran to the drawing-room immediately and informed my father-in-law; he was a medical doctor. We hurried down to check what was the issue. Especially because Dad was a doctor, he could be of help, I thought! By the time we reached the spot, there were already a few people around.
As Dad approached the unconscious person to examine him, I asked the people standing there and came to know that Dr Ashok Kaul has jumped off the 12th floor to end his life. I was shocked to the core. My immediate response was ‘I hope he is ok!’ And Dad declared, ‘He is no more.’
This incident shook something inside me that day.
One morning in July 2019, India woke up to the shocking news that VG Siddhartha, the founder of India’s largest coffee chain, Café Coffee Day, had gone missing. This news was quickly followed by news of his death, with reports speculating that he had taken his own life. In the note he left behind for his employees, Siddhartha had written, “I have failed as an entrepreneur”.
We all know CCD and adore it as the Indian equivalent of Starbucks. Siddhartha was a visionary who had created 50,000 jobs in 37 years of running a business successfully.
Another shattering incident that compelled me to write Setback Leadership.
Yesterday, my sister and I were out completing household chores throughout the morning; none of us checked our phones. After returning home when we checked our phone, we came to know of Sushant Singh Rajput’s tragic demise. He allegedly hanged himself to death.
For a couple of hours, I was numb and dumbfounded. I couldn’t believe the news, thinking it was a piece of fake news.
Three different years, three achievers from three spheres of life, from varied age groups, choosing the same way to give up on life. It is painful and devastating to see this happening regularly. They had everything by the standards of ‘success’ that our society defines. Then what went wrong? Where did we fail as a society? What we couldn’t provide as a society to them, that would make them feel secured and assured?
What death could provide them that life couldn’t? Honestly, I don’t know.
But, as a survivor of depression and strong suicidal thoughts, I can tell you, it’s in the approach we take as a society to deal with someone’s worries, fears, insecurities, and emotional difficulties.
Think about it, what do you do, when someone shares their inner fears, insecurities or worries with you? What approach do you take when someone tells you that they are feeling overwhelmed? What do you tell them when they indicate they are finding it difficult to manage things around them? What do to do when they confide in you?
Most often, I see people saying these things to the person who showed the courage to confide in them.
- You are a man, so man up, why are you cribbing about such silly stuff?
- You must compare your ‘successful life’ with that person who has more significant difficulties than you, but they are still managing fine.
- You are so privileged, why are you so worked up?
- You don’t have any scarcity, why are you feeling like this?
- You are so lucky to get help, then what’s bothering you?
- You are unreasonable and unappreciative about your life.
- You are being thankless to people who are supporting you.
- Think of them who are around you; they are putting so much effort. You must appreciate it.
- You are taking up way too much on your plate you must offload. (without offering any way to unload, instead subtly increasing the pressure by putting them in spot or blaming them.)
- Why are you behaving weird, or edgy? It isn’t helping our family or us.
- How can you feel upset or angry about such silly stuff, unbelievable?
- How can you get affected by such an incident, you have a strong mind?
- You are such an icon; how can you feel inadequate?
And many more of these.
Let me tell you something; these responses DOESN’T help the person who is confiding in you. It doesn’t comfort them; it doesn’t assure them; it doesn’t remove their fears and insecurities. These responses aggravate the problem further. The person may eventually stop confiding in you, stop telling their woes, share their pressures and become silent. Even when you ask ‘What happened? Anything wrong? Or, ‘tell me what’s bothering you? I am here to listen to you.’
Because they know you are NOT Genuinely concerned about their feelings or anguished state of mind, all you are worried about is to justify it or judge them for their beliefs. Why should they share their thoughts with you?
You should STOP telling people to confide in you if you don’t know how to LISTEN to them without jumping the gun truly. Stop telling them to share their deepest worries and fears with you when you can’t hold on to your urge to provide a ‘solution’ to them. It doesn’t work.
Do you honestly, genuinely want to help your loved ones? Do you seriously want them to come out of this quicksand of depression? Then please do the following things.
- LISTEN TO THEM: In a genuine sense, listen to them attentively, showing complete interest to know their feelings better. Do not listen to reply, listen to understand. Do not think from other perspectives, think from their perspective. Put yourself in their shoes, and if you can’t, stop asking them to confide in you.
- DO NOT JUDGE THEM: Yes, do not judge them for whatever they are sharing, no matter how mean do you think it is. They may be telling you something that you feel is wrong. Still, do not judge them for their thoughts; you are not here to school them on moral responsibility. You are here to comfort them and make them feel secure. Because, the moment they get insecure about sharing their thoughts, they will go silent. And, that can kill them even more quickly.
- DO NOT JUSTIFY: Justifying is yet another thing people do when someone shares their most profound challenges with them. Either by trivializing the problem or putting the burden of responsibility on their heads. It doesn’t work. It makes the person drown in the quicksand even further.
- BE COMPASSIONATE: When you genuinely want to help that person, take their side. Not the ‘right side’. They need to know that you approve their point of view. They need to know they have an ally in you. They already feel there is no one on their side, someone who understands them and supports them. You should stop treating it like your moral responsibility to change their point of view to the ‘right one’ simply because the yardstick of right and wrong is entirely subjective to each person. You are no one to judge it.
- SEEK PROFESSIONAL HELP: If none of the above is working, make sure to seek professional help, off course with their permission. It’s important to destigmatize the idea of seeking professional advice when needed. Make sure you take the lead and be supporting with them, instead of showing kneejerk reaction towards professional help. They need you, even more now, they are vulnerable and weak at present. It is not time to show your mental strength to them. Instead, it’s time to support them.
True Setback Leaders know that there is no heroism in making a vulnerable person feel even worse, and that’s why they come across as more compassionate and understanding. It’s their personal experiences that make them the way they are.