Stress and suicide

The suicide by three children in Mumbai calls for immediate steps to address the intense academic and social pressure that youngsters in our metros are silently struggling with. In two of the three cases, the children had performed poorly in school exams. It is likely that the children were depressed by their failure. A scolding from parents seems to have prompted one child to kill himself. But poor performance alone cannot be blamed for suicide.

The third child, an 11-year-old who participated in several dance contest shows, committed suicide apparently because her parents had forbade her from participating in reality shows and stage performances as these were affecting her studies. While police are yet to get to the bottom of why the three children chose to take their lives, it is evident that pressure of various sorts pushed them to take the extreme step.

While steps have been taken in recent months to reduce academic pressure on students, this has not been followed up by schools taking measures to monitor the psychological wellbeing of children. The overwhelming majority of our schools do not have counsellors, who could extend students with emotional support through difficult times. Of course, many would argue that it is the responsibility of parents to provide children with a supportive environment. Indeed it is. Unfortunately, increasingly it is parents that are pushing children over the edge by expecting them to be star performers whether in their studies or on stage. In the circumstances, they ignore the silent and not-so-silent appeals for support that their children send out.

The media too must bear responsibility for mounting suicide among children. Suicide is often portrayed as an inevitable and acceptable response to failure, encouraging children to take this route, rather than seek help. Besides, entertainment shows are putting children through immense stress. Children are forced to work long hours. Those behind reality television shows claim that children enjoy performing and are under no strain when participating in contests. This might be so in some cases. But many youngsters are unable to cope with the tension that comes with the performing. We need to bear in mind that they are children, not performing monkeys. The three children who took their lives in Mumbai have sent us a reminder that urgent steps are needed to ensure that children are not denied the simple pleasures of childhood.

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