When I was 11, my mother refused to let me play outside as I had done badly in my mid-term exams. Like most other children I was disappointed at not being able to live up to my expectations and more so those of my parents. However, soon I learnt that failure is simply a part of life, a stepping stone and definitely not the end. Many children in recent times on the other hand have not been as lucky.
14 suicides have taken place in Mumbai in the last two weeks. India has the second highest suicide rate in the world and 40 per cent of the cases are in the adolescent age group. Suicide is the third leading cause of death in people between the ages of 15 and 24 after motor vehicle accidents and homicides. The rise of suicidal tendencies in adolescents has been alarming and most of us are still perplexed at this sudden trend. What is the reason and what can we do about it?
Researchers concluded that people take their own lives in response to extreme emotional pain, and suicidal thoughts and feelings erupt due to various brain chemistry deficiencies and disorders, but, what drives adolescents to such thoughts at the tender age of 11-18? Peer pressure, fear of failure and rejection, alcohol or drug abuse, jilted lovers, or expectations of others from them?
Recently an 18 year old and a 14 year old hanged themselves due to failure in exams. A 12 year old girl killed herself because her family asked her to concentrate on her studies and refused to let her pursue dancing until she improved her grades. A 16 year old ended her life out of depression after recently having lost her father a few weeks before. These teenagers though having different reasons seem to have a binding factor and that is their loss of hope.
The spate of suicides in the city of Mumbai has brought one more factor to our notice-monkey see, monkey do, by which I mean that once the media starts publishing details of initial suicide attempts with all its juicy bits as first page news, it not only attracts the attention of impressionable teenagers but tends to allow them to believe it’s an acceptable solution to problems in today’s society.
Natural selection allows only the fittest to survive. Today, the ‘fittest’ refers to nothing but a group of successful, rich doctors or engineers. Our evaluation schemes for others and ourselves have changed dramatically. When we fail to achieve the standards set arbitrarily by society, we tend to confuse life-altering decisions as life-ending ones. Only if we learn to be a more tolerant towards choices and options beyond the prescribed ones, will we be able to accept ourselves as we are and truly move towards happiness and success.
Remember that you are allowed to make mistakes, and nothing done to you can break the love of people who genuinely care about you. Learn from the mistakes you make and try to talk to people around you. Focus on positive problem-solving approaches.
I don’t want to play a blame game here but we need to acknowledge teenage suicide as a problem and make amends in our culture and values to highlight less lethal options to deal with failure and depression. There is no reason for the “hope” of our country’s future to even know how to spell suicide, leave alone commit it.
A depressed teen’s signals are often confusing to understand. Parents do want to think of their child as happy and confident. It always seems easier to ignore a problem than to actively deal with it. If you think someone around you is contemplating suicide, talk to them, don’t judge them, and do not be too hard on them. Being a good friend and providing a patient ear can make the difference between life and death.
“When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,
When the road you’re trudging seems all up hill,
Rest if you must, but don’t you quit.”