It takes a Village to Raise a Child... and Save a Life #SuicidePrevention

Dr Roshan Radhakrishnan
'It takes a village to raise a child.'

The above is an African proverb that talks of the value a community lends to the upbringing of a young child. It can be seen from an extremely literal lens in how everyone may need to chip in for an individual child when their parents are away at work or can be viewed from a more broader view, seeing how a child imbibes and learns from what he sees all around him.  

Over the years, I have often found that this gem of a proverb applies to so many aspects of our lives. It goes well beyond a village and well beyond a young child too. Raising children is no child's play and no matter how confident you seem, you are never really prepared for it. The same truth applies to helping someone suffering from depression. 

Just as it is with raising a child, you are never really prepared as a family member to deal with depression all by yourself. Ironically, in a world as connected as we are today, we rarely step out of our way to actually be there for others in their times of need. It is so much easier to talk of our hatred for a different religion or ideology at the dinner table and local social media group than it is to actually ask for direct help when the one you love is going through a dark patch.

How can you - as a neighbour, a friend or a family member - help a family dealing with someone suffering from depression or suicidal tendencies?

Suicide Prevention It takes a village to raise a child and save a life quote

1. Have a kind word for the family when you cross paths. Do not make them feel like outcasts. Let them know someone is happy to see them.
2. Invite the family to social events and help them connect to others in the community. This will benefit them in multiple ways - it will once more help reduce the sense of isolation and loneliness they feel as they focus on their suffering loved one while also offering them the chance to make and strengthen bonds, thus offering them multiple avenues of support during tough times.

3. Two heads are better than one, ten more supportive than two. Nobody is born prepared to deal with their loved one having suicidal tendencies. Even in trying to do what is best for them, we may screw up (the commonest error in India being avoiding seeking medical help for mental health). This is where voicing your fears aloud to others can help as others can offer advice. Yes, this advice can be a double edged sword with the wrong group but then, that is where you need to use good judgement and trust in science over all else. 
4. Helping the person suffering from depression realize that others want to be there for him/ her also opens up another welcome door of communication. We need to accept that sometimes the affected individual would be more comfortable talking to an absolute stranger about what is in their heart, hurtful as it is to the one who is devoting their entire time to looking after the one they love.
5. Aim to involve the affected individual in group activities. This is a tricky situation undoubtedly which requires coordination with the family members. Someone suffering from depression should never be forcibly rushed into rejoining a party and pretending to smile and laugh just so that we can pat ourselves. 
6. Help out with unrelated tasks. To help a family with a member suffering from depression, you do not need to be extremely personal or help directly with the member to be of help to them. Got a car? Ask if you can get some groceries for them on your way back from work. Good at cooking? Offer to cook and bring dessert for them the coming weekend. Simple gestures can ease the family's stress and burden.
7. You may not realize it but a single person from the community around can be the difference between life and death. Everyone comes to the community table offering different skills and mindsets. Engaging the sufferer in a new interest maybe the perfect mental distraction needed, giving them time to slowly deal with the pain within while also bringing a genuine sense of curiosity into a life they were turning their back upon.   

8. Another key advantage of a community looking out for a troubled individual is that the others may pick up warning signs that the weary primary family member  may miss

article talking about the rise in India's suicide statistics

Do not be lulled into thinking this article is for someone else. With over 264 million people officially diagnosed as suffering from depression and over 75 percent in middle and lower income families receiving no medical treatment at all, you already know a family like this. They can be in your neighbourhood, in your lane, in your apartment complex... in your house.

In a year as unprecedented as this, the number of individuals suffering from suicidal tendencies has risen to terrifying levels (globally, it was one suicide attempt every 40 seconds & 800,000 deaths by suicide annually before all this began, to give you perspective.)  In these tough times, we need to doff the fake masks of strength we wear and allow the flawed versions of ourselves to be seen and embraced. Offering or seeking help in today's world is still seen as a sign of weakness today. It should not be, now more so than ever.

The truth is, we need one another, now more than ever. The path to depression is barely a doorstep away, literally a sneeze away for many in these pandemic times. We need to work together, bonding with kindness instead of our usual ties of communal or political ideology. 

In the end, it takes a village to raise a child... and save a life as well.

Black Panther end credit scene quote by King T'Challa at the United Nations

“We must find a way to look after one another as if we were one single tribe.”
- King T'Challa, 'Black Panther'

Author's note

Every year on September 10 - World Suicide Prevention Day, I write on the topic of Suicide Prevention. 

Post a Comment


Let me know what you think.

  1. Suicidal thoughts can be so killing on the family and loved ones as they would feel they have let down that person. Its one of the cruelest thing inflicted on one's loved ones and I agree with you about all help being provided to both the family and the concerned person. Its a sensitive topic and so many people feel afraid to broach it.

  2. Hear them out .
    Feeling lonely (even in presence of family members)can be a warning,than being alone.

  3. That Wakanda bit :'(

    Mental health needs to be spoken about more. Everyone should become more sensitive and at least try to understand each other. That is the need of the hour.

  4. People tend to simplify it so much even though it is anything but simple - for everyone.

  5. Yes one needs to speak up...
    We certainly need one another connected emotionally more than anything else.

    Have written few lines on suicide prevention day

  6. Great ideas and suggestions given today's depressing reality.

  7. "Offering or seeking help in today's world is still seen as a sign of weakness today."...very true Sir and sadly if someone is seeking help I am really not sure how many people are there (even virtually) around to offer help ...wish people realised that we are all here in need of each other more than anything else.

    Probably that's the reason for this high a rate of mental depression!

  8. So try and relevant in today's timetimes.This pandemic has brought mental health issues to the fore.Anyway better late than never.Even children suffer from depression.Read my post on Childhood depression.

  9. Talking to a stranger may be easier for a depressed person as he/she may not fear judgement. I liked the idea of helping out of the way like baking some dish for the coming weekend or grocery shopping that may ease out the family's mental condition a little.

  10. Close connections help a lot. I have seen how some warning signs of mental illness are picked up by others when the confused family missed them entirely. And yes, the caregivers feel overwhelmed emotionally. A sense of empathy from the people around you can help pull through the difficult time.

  11. Those were some amazing thoughts on developing empathy. Much has been spoken around suicide prevention but this was a different take where the society takes charge and actively participates in helping a family suffering with a mental health illness. Due to the stigma still associated with it, it seems a far flung thought but it is the need of the hour.

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