Mental Health: Fighting hopelessness to prevent suicide

One key risk factor that contributes to suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts is hopelessness.

As discussed in previous articles, mental health is defined as a state of well-being in which an individual realises his or her own potential, can cope with the normal stresses of life, can work productively and fruitfully, and is able to make a meaningful contribution to their community.

One in every hundred deaths worldwide is due to suicide and Zimbabwe has one of the highest suicide rates on the continent.

One key risk factor that contributes to suicidal thoughts and suicide attempts is hopelessness.

One way to address suicide is to address issues around hopelessness.

Are you losing hope?

  • Are you struggling to look to the future with enthusiasm?
  • Do you feel like giving up?
  • Are you still able to dream and imagine what your life will look like in 10 years?
  • Do you struggle to expect good things happening to you?
  • Have you lost faith that your situation will ever get better?

Hopelessness and mental wellbeing

There are many factors that can cause loss of hope, despair and demotivation

  • Loneliness and alienation: hopelessness can be the result of feeling separated from others, feeling neglected, abandoned or forgotten by those we feel should care about us
  • Demotivation: loss of inspiration, disillusionment and losing sight of our dreams can lead to feelings of hopelessness
  • Helplessness: a loss of a sense of autonomy, feeling powerless to change one’s situation, trapped and unable determines ones destiny, feeling limited and constrained can all lead to hopelessness
  • Bullying and abuse: being persistently exposed to bullying and abuse can break one’s sense of hope and lead to despair
  • Cynicism and pessimism: a negative attitude towards life can eventually to hopelessness
  • Resignation: the challenges of life can weigh us down and eventually lead to hopelessness
  • Traumatic life events: stressful, life threatening events can cause discouragement and loss of hope
  • Depression: hopelessness is a symptom that is often seen in severe depression

How can I fight hopelessness?

  1. Fight unhealthy thoughts: negative thoughts fuel negative emotions and maladaptive behaviours. Fighting hopelessness will need us to be aware of unhealthy thinking patterns. These unhealthy thinking patterns include:

- Catastrophising is when we think things are worse than they actually are. it can lead us to become discouraged and hopeless

- Having all or nothing thinking is when we can only see things as black or white, success or failure, this can lead to distress when situations occur that can’t be categorised so easily

- Overgeneralisation occurs when we take the consequences of a single event and generalise these all situations, one failure then makes us a failure.

- Disqualifying any positives is when we fail to see the good in any situation which can lead to discouragement and loss of hope

  1. Fight loneliness: Loneliness can occur due to physical isolation, mental or physical ill health, getting older, excessive use of social media and other technologies. We need to value and invest in our relationships to fight loneliness and the hopelessness that can result from it. Life is ideally shared to allow us to share the good days as well as the challenges of life.
  2. Fight for your dreams and hopes: dreams inspire us to work towards a better world and a better life for ourselves and our families. Dreams preserve hope and hope is mentally protective. Have you lost sight of your dreams? Allow yourself to dream again.

If you think that you or someone that you know maybe struggling with mental health challenge due to hopelessness, please contact your nearest health care provider and get help.

  •  Dr Chido Rwafa-Madzvamutse  is a consultant psychiatrist. Feedback on WhatsApp: +263714987729)

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