“I should just go and kill myself.” These words from a teenager are petrifying, especially for parents. For, suicide is the second common cause of death among youngsters. Most often families and friends are unable to comprehend why their loved ones would take such a drastic step.
Suicidal thought is a silent killer stalking young minds. Why does it haunt teen minds? It’s called toxic socialisation — a process of childhood abuse and neglect. Young minds are poisoned easily. Parents are unaware of the thoughts that torment youngsters, who think that ending their lives is the only solution to their troubles.
The suicide note of a teenager says, “The more you try to forget me, more my soul will rest in peace”. In his note, the boy blamed himself and the education system for the immense pressures and the recklessness of the university in barring him from examinations.
Pressures are probably one reason for the suicidal tendency among teenagers. Nearly 90 per cent of the teenagers who killed themselves have battled depression or other issues that tortured their minds.
Let’s look at the reasons behind suicides:
■ Fear of failure: We live in a competitive world. We want our children to be doctors or engineers. Parents or other family members don’t settle for anything less. In such a situation, children face a dilemma: chase their dreams or follow the diktats of parents. Pursuing their passion could be immensely satisfying, but that may not result in a financially rewarding career. The path preferred by parents may secure a safe and stable future. So to keep the family happy and avoid the fear of failure, children give up their dreams and ambitions. That leads to frustration and depression.
■ Peer pressure: The wrong sort of friends and colleagues can create turbulence in adolescent minds. Youngsters often compete against each other and want to prove themselves to be the best. That’s common, and there’s nothing wrong with it. But excessive pressure can be counterproductive. The burden of expectation and the reality of a setback can be so crushing that they resort to drastic steps.
■ Social environment: Criticism is common in our society. Some of it can be very virulent and scathing. But much care should be taken while criticising teenagers and their actions. Or else, it can scar them, and wreak havoc on their self-esteem. That will have consequences, leading them to think that their lives are worthless.
■ Violence: Chronic exposure to violence during childhood can cause lasting damage to young minds. Children who suffer abuse often end up committing suicide. A staggering one in three teenagers is prone to taking such extreme measures.
Exposure to violence and violent environments should be curbed. It should not even manifest in words too; parents have to be aware that there may be situations when exposure to violence cannot be averted. If that happens, students should be able to seek the guidance of teachers, counsellors or parents. Such interactions will help heal and reduce trauma.
How can we prevent children from taking their lives? Parents have a very important role. They have to change the way they raise, educate and socialise with children. Abuse is no solution to any issues involving children. If a teen brings up a subject that can even be aggressive, parents have to pay attention and address it smoothly. Toxic socialisation should stop.
Schools play an important role in healing. Educational institutions must ensure that toxic behaviour like bullying is unacceptable. Teachers should earn the trust of students, only then can they help the youngsters. Awareness programmes are essential to instil sense security among adolescents.
If parents and teachers work in unison, we can help our children to live a full and happy life.
Sumitra Nair is a lawyer and blogger based in Dubai.