Adolescence - it can be a turbulent time. Teenagers deal with a vast array of new emotions during this transitional period, one of them being the urge to commit suicide. Sruthi Meenakshi.R writes on why teenagers choose this extreme step rather than sorting things out.
“Most youngsters who attempt suicide do not really want to die” says Psychologist Ms. Anita Fernando, who is a volunteer at Sneha foundation. It is a known fact that teenagers are at high risk of suicide. The reasons might be varied like academic disappointments, relationship failures or psychological imbalance, but one fact is that they are actually crying out for help.
Contrary to the popular belief that the suicidal person wants to die and feels there is no turning back, Ms. Anita says, “Suicidal people are usually ambivalent, wavering until the last moment between wanting to live and wanting to die. Most suicidal people do not want die”. Life seems to be nothing more than a hellish nightmare to the disappointed youth of modern emotional world. They do not wait to analyze things and they jump to the conclusion that their problems are insoluble. Mrs. Charumathi, mother of two teens feels that parents should have an open communication with their children, especially if they look depressed. “Parents should give freedom, respect their teen’s feelings and bring out their individuality”, she says.
A recent study stated that the highest suicide rate in the world is among girls in South India. “Indian society is still predominantly traditional and conservative, and dating and courtship among teenagers is frowned upon and discouraged. Stress factors such as family conflicts, domestic violence, academic failures, unfulfilled romantic ideals and mental illness all contribute to the high levels of teen suicide among girls, especially in India”, says Mrs. Anita. It is also found that most of them either suicide by hanging or self-immolation.
Sexual orientation with its accompanying pressures and stigmas are major deciding factors for teen suicides. Gay teens or those unsure of their sexual identity are more likely to commit suicide, particularly if they have suffered bullying or harassment. One of the major problems is getting psychiatric counselling when it's needed. Parents contribute a lot to their teen’s suicidal thoughts. There is the possibility of domestic violence in the home, physical or other forms of abuse, or parental indifference. Sometimes the parents are very indifferent and remain unconnected with their children. Ms. Anita says, “Many kids feel they just can't measure up to parental or teacher expectations. Parents sometimes tend to live their incomplete dreams through their children, so irrespective of their child's likes or dislikes or abilities they tend to pressure them to achieve and criticize them for their failures. And importantly, most of the teens do not open up to their parents due to the age gap”. However Vaishnavi, a teenager, says “I feel very comfortable to speak out to my parents especially when I am troubled or depressed. They do have high expectations from me but they make sure that they do not pressurize me”. Parents who’ve lost a child to suicide undergo a period of folie. Ms. Anita feels that the knowledge that their love was not enough to save their child and the fear that others will judge them to be an unfit parent might raise powerful feelings of failure. It isn’t uncommon for newly bereaved parents to express thoughts of suicide, regardless of how their child has died.
It is a myth that teens who talk about suicide rarely commit suicide. Most of the teens who attempt or commit suicide give clues or warnings of their intentions. Do not ignore statements like, "You'll be sorry when I'm dead," or "I can't see my way out." Ms. Anita says, “This is a time when receiving attention is exactly what’s needed as the teen is trying to express how much pain they are in. No matter how casually or jokingly said, these may really indicate suicidal feelings”. The mental condition of our younger generation is in constant turmoil. The emotions of today’s youngsters are different from that of olden days which the parents and elders do not recognize and is in relation to their peers, social status, environments etc. Societies have become much more open than before, which has positive and negative consequences. TV and other media have become more important and have a strong impact in the young minds. Too much of addiction to Internet and this self-centered approach often aggravates their isolated life. Mrs. Charumathi feels that the media impact is more negative. “It feed new ideas to the children and aggravates even the slightest thought of suicide”, she exclaims.
She feels that often the teenagers do not have the ability to think about life and life events in terms of the broader perspective .They tend to believe that all of the unhappiness they are feeling and experiencing will go on forever. “Everything that is happening to them is in the ‘here and now’. They should have the capacity to think that there might be a brighter future just around the corner”, she says.