September 10 is World Suicide Prevention Day
By Dr Pooja Mohanty
World Suicide Prevention Day is observed on September 10th of every year, and the theme of this year is “Creating Hope through Action”. National Crime Records Bureau reports that India saw a swooping high of 12,526 suicides by students. The percentage has sharply risen by 21.19 percent since 2019. The year 2020 has recorded the highest number of student suicides. Studies and pressure to perform well has always been an essential part of student life but the rising graph of student suicides is trend shocking for serious analysis and action by parents, teachers, education policy makers, therapists and students themselves.
The prevention of suicide is an umbrella term for the joint efforts of all mental health practitioners and related professionals. Suicide is a complex phenomenon as mentions Durkheim, a French sociologist. He studied the phenomenon attributing it to society at large and therefore defined it as social fact. To understand this better a close look at the phenomenon may help in preventing it.
Being a teenager is never easy when they are faced with numerous biological, psychological, social and emotional risk factors. Children and youngsters don’t understand the concept or permanency of being dead, instead for them it’s a way of finishing the pain and solving a problem. The motives of adolescents wishing to take extreme steps are to seek help, to escape from an impossible situation, to get relief from the terrible state of mind, preoccupied with death without understanding its permanency, to seek attention from a particular person or group, to show how much they loved someone, or to make people sorry and make them understand their desperation.
Failure in exams, parental expectations, substance abuse, unemployment, peer pressure and failed relationships, media glorification of previous suicides, closed suppressed negative emotions, addiction to internet and poverty are common reasons for these suicides. Covid -19 had further worsened the situation. Psychologists have pointed out the issue of mental health due to Covid lockdown, staying indoors, and emotional isolation is considered potential reasons.
Studies from child and adolescent psychiatry clinic, AIIMS in their research found out a lot of interesting facts. First one being what really triggers a troubled teen over the edge. Examination fears and failures (43%), love affairs (42%) sibling rivalry (40%), issues at school (36%), Warring parents (33%), fear of punishment (20%), death of a loved one (17%) and distressed parents (17%).
The growing pains of adolescents reported were (35%) youngsters complain that they have too many things to do every day, (33%) feel lonely with a lack of meaningful connection with parents, friends or loved ones, (33%) get irritated at frequent scolding from parents and teachers, (31%) fear major exam, while (26%) complain about frequent tests at school, (29%) get irked at the constant reminders from parents to study, (21%) get anxious over school work and problems with teachers.
Most of the youngsters do show up on the warning signs which most parents are not able to catch as they remain either diverted or ignorant of the same. (90%) teens show extreme reluctance to go to school—a classic symptom. Over (70%) show depressed, irritable mood, ill-temper, feelings of worthlessness, sadness, or self-hatred, inappropriate guilt and acting-out behaviour. Around (40-50%) report headaches, loss of appetite and interest in daily activities and distinct weight change. Over (30%) have persistent difficulty falling or staying asleep, excessive daytime sleepiness, fatigue, difficulty concentrating and preoccupation with self. About (48%) think about suicide, have obsessive fears or worry about death and plan to commit suicide or actually attempt one.
(60%) parents ignore signs of stress and tend to consult doctors for falling grades. (65%) families don’t have any inkling about their children’s depression or suicidal thoughts. (57%) Suicide attempts by teenagers are found to be sudden acts of frustration and anger. 82% teens wish to talk about themselves, but 76% parents discuss only career issues.
In most cases of successful suicides the adolescents signs and clues are found to be either ignored or downplayed. To work on this parents firstly need to start taking to teens and build up rapport in six stages
- Start with a generic experience-the last holiday, what they like or don’t like.
- Discuss specific experiences-arguments, exam tensions, etc.
- Thrash out the context in which the above occur-home, school and neighborhood.
- Talk about the institutions within these contexts say, friendships or marriage.
- Experiences and feelings within these institutions-love, attraction and romance.
- Hammer out issues like sexuality, depression, or even suicidal ideas.
In the final analysis of treatment few of the family matters that disseminated out in the study were (90%) of the depressed teens who respond to treatment have no perception of family discord-parental fights, with other family members or with themselves. Those who respond well report two hours of extra attention from parents, compared to those who do not. 52% of those who get better have parents encouraging sports, recreation and other cultural activities. 46% of depressed teens have pushy and achievement –oriented parents. (50%) of the depressed children have parents who control every aspect of their lives.
Experts and mental health professionals prescribe-
- Early detection of the problem in behavioral manifestation of the individual by himself or those around the victim.
- Quality therapy and counselling: Right professionals at right time can give distressed individuals a platform to voice their issues without judging them and therefore help person to overcome crisis. Appointing such mental health professionals in schools, colleges and workplace should be a mandatory practice.
- Limiting availability of drugs.
- Introducing courses on self-management, emotional intelligence, mindfulness and life skills education in all educational institutions can make adolescents adept with dealing with crisis independently.
(The author is a clinical psychotherapist in XLRI Jamshedpur. She has done her PhD from NIMHANS (National Institute of Mental Health and Neuro Sciences) and fellowship from (University of Oxford, UK.)