Concerns rise over teen suicides

Concerns rise over teen suicides

A study brings alarming tidings about how young people are despairing, but the good news is that timely intervention can help.

The numbers confirm what was suspected for long —  more and more teens are contemplating and committing suicide, unable to cope with academic stress, failure and loneliness.

A recent study by a private college in Bengaluru surveyed 1,900 school students, college-goers and young workers in Bengaluru, Mumbai and Chennai. It revealed that 42 per cent have contemplated suicide and 46 per cent have actually attempted it. Shockingly, 38 per cent in the second category say they will attempt suicide again.
One reason cited was the pressure on social media. Teens are desperate for approval and validation on social media sites, and feel rejected when they don’t get any, doctors say.

Another reason for the alarming trend is the teens’ feeling of being misunderstood. “In most cases I have come across, they talk to their parents initially. But the parents don’t take them seriously,” says Dr Naveen Jayaram, consultant psychiatrist, Sakra World Hospital.

If the parents acknowledge the problem and discuss it, suicide can be averted. “But they respond with ‘Even I faced this situation, ignore this, do this or that.’” he observes.

Jayaram says suicide is now the third most common cause of death in the age group of 15-30 years.

“Teenagers naturally don’t talk to their parents or confide in grown-ups when it comes to some problems. They think that their parents don’t have the ability or the emotional strength to deal with some topics,” says Shabari Bhattacharya, mental health counsellor and programme manager at Parivarthan, an NGO that works in the area of counselling, training and research.

Changing this is difficult as parents are afraid to talk about emotional disturbances, even if they see warning symptoms.

“For example, the school may have warned them about their child’s behaviour. But they are still afraid to engage on this subject, thinking that talking about it will make it happen,” she says. Another reason for suicides is the unbridled access to social media and the content children view on it.

“There is an uptick in suicides immediately after a celebrity commits suicide. If someone is depressed and is having suicidal tendencies, hearing of someone committing the act, especially someone famous, pushes them over the edge,” says Shabari.

She has also seen cases where teenagers cut themselves or engage in self-harm and immediately post a picture or message about it on social media.

“There are subgroups or communities on social media which actively promote such acts and if people are looking for it, they will find them easily. They then feel comfortable doing such things,” she says.

The survey was conducted by Podar Institute of Education.


Double income problems

Most parents are working these days and children hardly get to meet them. That is why children become loners. Even when parents and children meet, conversations centre around academic performance and what is lacking among the children.
(As explained by a doctor)


Dr Naveen Jayaram, consultant psychiatrist: I met a girl suffering from depression for two years. She had developed suicidal tendencies. When I asked her why she had not sought help earlier, she told me she wasn’t even aware what depression was. She thought it was just a phase all children went through.

What parents can do

- Keep communication lines open

- Look out for warning signs

- Try and monitor social media usage

- Ask if your child has any problems


Why suicidal thoughts

- Depression

- Peer pressure

- Need for validation on social media.

- Lack of awareness and maturity

- Drug abuse

-Lack of family warmth.


You do the math

- This year, till July, Bengaluru has already recorded 1,921 suicides. This is more than 50 per cent of the number in 2017. It is the highest in the past four years.

- According to the National Crime Records Bureau, the number of suicides in the country during 2004–2014 saw an increase of 15.8 per cent over the previous decade.

- Experts say adolescents and teenagers are among the most vulnerable.

- In 2015, data revealed that in India, one student commits suicide every hour.


How they cope

When kids fall short of expectations and feel upset, they take the non-emotional route. Instead of talking about it, they seek to gratify themselves by eating, binge shopping, smoking, and doing drugs.


Emotionally healthy teenager

A Bengaluru doctor describes an emotionally healthy teenager as ‘one who is flexible, can understand that realities are different from fantasies, and has developed good self-esteem.’


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