COPING WITH LIFE: Teach them to seek comfort in spirituality
IN any programme of suicide prevention, education is essential. Equipping youths with coping skills, including critical thinking and a sense of humour to laugh at oneself and life's problems will improve their coping abilities. But this approach alone is insufficient. Even the eight strategies of the Suicide Prevention Action Plan announced by the health minister (NST, June 5) do not go far enough.
Our thinking affects our emotions and behaviour. Suicide prevention programmes, to be more effective, must bring about transformation in the attitudes and perspectives of our youths towards life. For instance, it is crucial that youths are taught to acknowledge that life is complex and often unfair, and that everyone will inevitably go through extreme experiences of disappointment and sorrow at one time or another.
With the right attitude and perspective, these experiences are not so insurmountable that suicide is considered the best and only way out but are opportunities for self-examination and growth.
A person with suicidal thoughts is at the boundary between life and death, between hope and despair. This involves issues of a spiritual nature. Inculcating core spiritual values can give them the right perspectives of these boundaries.
First, youths must be taught that in times of trouble, they can call upon a spiritual resource for comfort and help.
Second, youths must be taught to accept a worldview that there is a higher intelligence, purpose or order that gives meaning and reality to the events and relationships in their lives.
So, if we believe that there is a divinely ordained sovereignty over all of us, then, when we go through extremely bad experiences, our response can be one of acceptance and how we may emerge a better person out of adverse experiences.
Third, youths inculcated with core spiritual values will have a community in which their transcendent reality and worldview are validated. These youths will not be alone and support through difficult times will be readily available.
These core spiritual beliefs cut across all religions. Once embraced, they give everybody the inner strength to ride through the worst crises in life. Only then are we attending to suicide prevention at the root of human behaviour, one that is not just inherently psychological but spiritual as well.