Adolescent Suicides: Are We Pushing Our Children Too Far?

Posted on January 5, 2010 in Learning+, The Opinionated, YKA Editorials

Anshul Tewari:

On Sunday morning, 18-year-old Bajanjit Kaur hanged herself from the ceiling fan at her home in Powai. On Saturday morning, Dombivli resident Neha Sawant (12) was found hanging from a dupatta tied to a window in the bedroom. On Monday morning Sushant Patil (12), a Class 7 student of Shardhashram school in Dadar, was found hanging in the school toilet.

This news surfaced all over the television yesterday, and came as a shock to most of us. I could only imagine what the parents of these young ones would be going through. The question that raised in my mind was, “was it stress, confusion, pressure or motivation?” The most shocking reason was the one related to the suicide of the 12 year old. Police said the motive for her suicide is not yet established but suspect her failure to get into a reality show could be a reason.

We often believe that success is only when we achieve the best in life, the best job, the best car, the best lifestyle… but we do not realize that success is not a task that HAS to be done whatsoever, instead, it is a feeling that one needs to develop. More than the students, the parents fail to realize this fact.

Their over burdening expectations are making children struggle to achieve things that are not in their forte. When people have roses, they crave for tulips.

This is the basic problem we all suffer from at some point of time. We are never happy with what we have. We always crave for more. Someone said, “If you crave for more and more, only then will you achieve success”. But someone countered it and very rightly said, “If you have achieved your limits, then strive for excellence in what you have and what you are good at.”

People think that such notions are not present in the modern urban areas, in fact, a study proves that 70% of urban parents force their children to take up the professions or courses they want them to, as compared to only 15% in semi urban and rural areas. Thus we, the so called educated class fail to learn that it is not the pressure we put on our children that will make them succeed, instead, it is the freedom we give them to chose their area of expertise (which is a success in itself).

The very fact that failing in class becomes a social stigma for a student is depressing. If a child fails, and that too at an age of 10-15, it is but obvious that he will be demotivated. At an age when students need motivation, schools and colleges, with their though and “competitive” marking system make them believe that they are not capable enough.

In fact, the very belief in India that science and commerce subjects are better than arts related subjects proves the very failure of the education system in India.

I remember, when I was in school I took commerce tuition at a very popular institute here in Delhi. The master of the institute had a son who was interested in music and wanted to pursue his further studies in Music from London. But our worthy master ridiculed him and his desire, and forced him to take up a course of his and his wife’s choice. Today, their son is finding it extremely hard to cope up with the pressure of the studies, and the lack of extracurricular activities make him suffer all the more.

A study reveals that the average suicide rate for young women aged between 15 to 19 living around Vellore in Tamil Nadu was 148 per 100,000. This compares to just 2.1 suicides per 100,000 in the same group in the UK.

The global suicide rate stands at 14.5 deaths per 100,000, with suicide the fourth leading cause of death in the 15 to 19 age group. However, in the Tamil Nadu study, suicide was the number one cause of death among these adolescents.

Notably, young women were much more likely to kill themselves than young men – the reverse of the rest of the world. In Western countries, men are three times more likely to commit suicide than women.

“I was surprised to find the rates were so staggeringly high,” says paediatrician Anuradha Bose, who led the study at the Christian Medical College in Vellore.

All this is because of the growing expectations and the increasing competition around these students. A fact is that Indians, in particular, feel that there is an urge to make their children do tough and competitive courses and make them study abroad with MBA degrees and jobs which give them pivotal salaries and designations, but it is happiness that we fail to consider.

Today, when alternative job opportunities like photography, pottery, etc. are springing out and creating good income opportunities, there is a need to open up our minds and look ahead of the societal norms of education. “Parents must understand that the age group from seven- to 18 years has low levels of tolerance and gets frustrated easily. It’s also when they respond strongly to humiliation and failure,” says Dr Shubhangi Parker, head of psychiatry department at KEM Hospital.

After writing such a long article, I wonder, will a teacher ever realize that it is high time she stopped humiliating her students? Will parents feel that there are multiple options in life, all that can lead to success? Will we ever feel that success is not pursuing the most sought after goal or profession, it is the excellence we achieve in what we are good at?

And I still wonder, will we ever consider alternative career opportunities?

A lot of question still remain unanswered. Be it about education, parenthood, profession, career or anything. It is only our conscience that can answer these questions.

Drop in a comment below or mail us at [email protected], you can also tweet us at @YouthKiAwaaz.

The writer is the Founder and Editor in Chief at Youth Ki Awaaz


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Parul Sabherwal

Hey Anshul,
I very much agree with you that the high expectations of parents or the so called peer pressure is the main reason behind these unfortunate cases of suicides. Coping up with such pressures from our near and dear ones becomes difficult and killing your own self appears to be an easier way out. the point about the unanswered questions is also very true. parenthood has always been an area of concern amongst the people of our society. life today has become a race and everybosy is trying to win that gold because the fear of coming second in life haunts every single human being.
I think parents should understand the feelings of their children and give a vent to their thoughts….it will always make the life of their children successful and worth living.

rohit khattar

tewari ji vadiya ji vadiya

wht if koi field of intrst nai ho toh bacche ka?

iispe aapki tippani kya hai?
mai aap k agle article me jaan na chahunga
mr. editor in chief

ArUn ShArMa

Hi Anshul, very well written. But there are certain points where my views diverge from yours.
Parents' expectations have been over-emphasized whenever we talk about teenage suicides. Does that mean that parents do no have any right on the lives of their children? Parents in the semi-urban areas do not influence the career selection of children because they do not know about the alternative career options that they have. On the contrary, parents in the urban cities are more aware. I do not deny that there's an age old mentality of our society to measure the intelligence of a student by his percentage. But unlike UK, where unemployment fund is provided to all unemployed youth and public schools provide better education that private ones, Indian parents invest heavily in their children. So, I think the parents should be provided enough security net to encourage them from leaving the children's choice to children.
Secondly, when we urge the parents to let their children choose their own field of choice, do we also try to understand the availability of resources to pursue that passion? Rarely. How many acting institutes do we have in Punjab? How many photography trainers do we have in Orrisa? How many pottery masters can I find in Maharashtra? All this is possible if I have enough resources to spend on my child and let him follow his passion in some of the metro cities like Delhi and Mumbai. But then, the parents also feel insecure about their children while parting with them at such early age.
So, the issue is not as simple as it has been made out to be. If we really feel that we need to change the Indian psyche, we need to bring up a hoard of scholarship programs, a wide variety of vocational courses and guaranteed employment to the trainers and much more similar initiatives.

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