It’s time meditation be made a vital element of our social support system. It can drastically bring down suicide rates.
Every year, millions around the world try to kill themselves; and nearly half a million to one succeed! That is a devastating statistic for a time that is hailed as one of opportunities and growth. Worryingly, suicide in India is slightly above world rate. Of the half a million suicidal death worldwide every year, 20% are Indians. In the last two decades alone, the suicide rate has increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000 with substantially high rates in four southern states.
Surveys have found a 64% correlation between domestic violence of women and suicidal tendencies. While domestic violence against women has been found to be a major factor for suicides in Bangaloe, financial and family issues too seem to be driving men to take this shocking step.
What is suicide? Suicide is the willful and intentional ending of one’s life. Before beginning to look at measures to prevent humans from taking this extreme step, it would help to understand briefly what suicide ideation is. Suicide ideation refers to a person’s thoughts about or an unusual preoccupation with suicide. It is generally associated with depression though there is evidence of its associations with many other psychiatric disorders, life events, family disturbances and conflicts, all of which may increase the risk of suicide ideation.
The question is that can suicides be prevented? A resounding “yes” as can be seen in the various therapeutic treatments that have been effectively used for long. Amongst the many therapeutic measures undertaken, the one that is gaining momentum in a big way is meditation. Once just a ritual of monasteries, today meditation has gone mainstream. Almost 20,000 research studies have shown that patients prefer meditation to anti-depressants, psychotherapy, behavior therapy, and cognitive therapy. This is perhaps also due to the fact that meditation has no side effects unlike some medications, which have actually been linked to increasing or causing suicidal ideation.
So, what is it about meditation that is so effective in the treatment of suicidal ideation? Sri Sri Ravi Shankar has said that, “meditation fulfills the natural tendency of human life to look for a joy that does not diminish or turn into negative emotions”.
Meditation brings about a major shift in mindset and approach to life. Much of emotional and consequently physical distress stems from either striving too hard to gain something we think we really want or clinging to things we don’t have. This brings on enormous stress and pain. In the practice of meditation, there is a huge reduction in stress levels that occur by diving deep into the deepest states of relaxation, a rest that is deeper than the deepest rest. In this state, there is a glorious mix of profound rest and high awareness. One lets go without any conscious effort… As we reach this state, there is a shift in the focus from the regrets, anger, and all things negative associated with the past and the anxieties and planning of the future. There is then a movement to the present moment. Meditation makes the present look so celebrated that it makes possible dreaming and planning for the future.
Meditation helps the mind to settle. Once it is settled, it brings back hope. It takes away the confusion and the feeling of being lost which is so classically indicative of suicidal ideation. Meditation will help release the judgment of pain and help you just observe it. As Sri Sri says, “every emotion has a definite sensation in the body. Many a times, we get carried away by thoughts or feelings, and we do not observe the sensation.”
Meditation helps us to learn to experience non-judgmentally. If we observe our experience closely, what is revealed is several aspects of our lives that we see and understand clearly and other areas where we are essentially blindly. Meditation clears the focus and thus diminishes self-harming cognitions. This helps to develop self-confidence, self-worth and become non-judgmental. This in turn will help one with suicidal ideation to have better control over their behavior.
Academic institutions must introduce essential skills like meditation into their curriculum. This would help to be a huge deterrent to those who have suicidal ideas and prepare the next generation of people to develop their inner strength and discover the purpose and meaning on their lives.
By Dr. Prema Seshadri