Here’s How You Can Help a Loved One Cope with Suicide

Four years ago, Ankita Shah* lost her father to suicide. For a long time after his death, she was in shock and felt lonely despite the support of her immediate family. It was only after she began seeing a mental health professional that her emotional state improved.

In India, more than 2.3 lakh people die due to suicide each year which means more than two lakh families have stories like Ankita’s. Their stories follow similar patterns: loneliness, shame, social stigma and isolation, guilt and several unanswered questions.

The stigma runs deep, and insensitive remarks are common after such a death.

Milind and Manisha Mhaiskar highlighted this in 2017, through an open letter they wrote to their deceased son in a newspaper.

Some said you were very strict with him, some said you gave too much liberty, could he not carry on with the burden of expectations?… Some said both [parents] are so busy, they may not be giving him time… you, me and mammu [mother], that was our world, how do we tell that to people?

Such comments can explain why not everyone is as candid as the Mhaiskar family. Ankita, for instance, didn’t want to speak about her father initially, and friends and family also kept a distance. This is why, she believes, it is time to talk about suicide. “If we are more open, we help people cope with their loss, and we help erase the shame,” says Ankita.