Studies show that the rates of suicide have reached an alarmingly high value. This sadly, does not make the topic any easier to speak of. Rather than speak out in order to help save lives, society would prefer to either speak about mental illnesses in mocking tones, hushed tones, or not at all. While this article dares to speak about suicide, it does not focus on the dreary facts, but rather on tool that can be used to combat it.
A study conducted in 2017 shows that people who would like to reach out to suicidal people can make a difference. Mental health practitioners or even caring individuals can make a difference with the help of some simple words.
HELP ME HELP YOU
One drawback that makes itself known is that if a patient doesn’t answer ‘yes’ to the question ‘Are you having suicidal thoughts’, there is little way you can help. They have to admit that they need help before radical changes can take place. Recent studies show that up to 80 percent of people who committed suicide denied having suicidal thoughts in their last conversation with a mental health practitioner.
When all these are considered, it is deduced that the best way to help such a person is to correctly assess risks. Another published study in Nature Human Behavior suggests a game plan to combat denial of suicidal thoughts. Volunteers were put in an fMRI brain scan and were asked to ponder on 30 words which were positive, negative and neutral in nature. They were asked to consider each word at time and while they did this, their brain activity was monitored.
The six words with which a person can use to identify suicidal behaviors are: praise, good, carefree, trouble, cruelty, and death.
In the study, those who had suicidal thoughts activated the left superior medial frontal area and the medial frontal/ anterior cingulated when they thought of words like death and cruelty. Using a machine programmed with a learning algorithm, researchers correctly identified those with suicidal thoughts.
GET OUT OF MY HEAD
While this research offers high hope for the future, it has some imperfections. For one thing, a suicidal person is not likely going to let you use such equipment on him or her neither are they likely to be co-operative. The leader of the study, Dr. Marcel Just said “It would be nice to see if we could probably do this using EEG, if we could assess the alterations with EEG, it would be immensely cheaper and more widely used.” He also commented on the imperfection of the fMRI. He stated that if someone was not willing to let the machine know what he was thinking, he could easily block it out. The fMRI is not a way to access people thoughts without their permission.
However, despite the drawbacks, being able to identify suicidal behaviors with brain control is still a great achievement which will definitely save more lives if perfected.