This article was originally published on 29 November, 2018.
As the subject of suicide resurfaced on social media and in casual conversation this week, one thing's become clear: Pakistan struggles to talk about mental health in a sensitive, constructive manner.
On an episode of Dawn News' talk show Zara Hat Kay, the hosts spoke to psychologist Atia Naqvi and her husband Azfar Naqvi who lost their son Emad to suicide in May. They discuss how we could remove the taboo surrounding trauma and mental illness and have healthier communication with those suffering amongst us as well as the bereaved families of those who have ended their lives.
Here are some key takeaways:
1) Trust yourself to know when something isn't right
When talking about the resources available for people going through a tough time mentally, Ms Atia said that in the absence of a psychiatrist or psychotherapist, a general practitioner is also able to prescribe the necessary medication and refer you to the right mental health practitioner. However, she cautions that even medical professionals can sometimes dismiss your concerns.
"Trust yourself. No one knows you as well as you. If you feel some uneasiness or sadness, go talk to someone. If they don't take you seriously, go to the next person... and the person after that. Other people can't know the state of your inner self," she stressed.
She underlined the importance of sharing your burden with others, admitting that young people often try to protect their parents from hurt or worry. "It's important to let your feelings out, even if it's in the form of a conversation with a shopkeeper or a written note to someone."
2) Listen to others with the intention to understand, not respond
One of the factors behind suicide that was discussed on the show is the lack of communication about problems or difficulties between parents and children or within the family in general.
Ms Atia talked about the need for better listening to take place. Often, we listen to hear things we want to hear and are upset when uncomfortable topics are broached. She emphasised that it's the parents' responsibility to fully hear their children out and convey their availability and openness to their children.
3) Question the value you put on achievements or 'success'
The conversation also touched on the feeling of 'not good enough' that plagues young people today and 'the rat race' that might make lose sight of the actually important things in life.
"We need to think about whether we give people room to be imperfect, whether we give them the space to talk about negative emotions," said Ms Atia, who also touched on how mentally unwell people are encouraged to be patient or grateful.
"Yes, both patience and gratitude are important virtues but they can't be forced. They are taught through actions."
4) If you're bereaved, allow yourself to grieve
Speaking from his personal experience, Mr Azfar said, "The grief of losing a child will always be a part of your life. Gradually, without pressuring yourself, take baby steps to learn how to manage your grief and live with it."
He urged bereaved parents to not let their life stop with the passing of their child and to be present for their other children. "As parents, we try to gather our strength and move on and hope for a good life."
Ms Atia added, "Don't be ashamed by your child's suicide. Feel their pain. Don't care about what the world thinks."
5) Respect that it's an extremely sensitive time for the bereaved
When talking about a suicide and/or condoling with the bereaved, Ms Atia says the conversation should come from a place of compassion and love, adding that sometimes fewer words are sometimes better.
"An extremely precious life was lost," said Ms Atia, while talking about the recent alleged suicide of BNU student Rushan Farrukh, "and we are intent on discussing the trivialities of the case."
Mr Azfar added, "It's also not about [the bereaved]. [When our son died], people would come up to us and commiserate that our son didn't think of us when he took his life. But we want to say, did anyone stop to think of his pain?"
6) Celebrate the legacy of those who have left us
Mr Azfar said, "Don't judge these kids for ending their life. Celebrate their life, take their legacy forward, remember the good things they've done instead of their final actions. I wish for my two younger kids to live like their elder brother did. Because he was a great boy."