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“God, you can”t fire me, I Quit!”-India”s Youth

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Anahita Thukral:

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.”


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  1. Milesh

    Nice work ,but considering only family part is not the versatile solution, today ,most of us don’t know what exactly we want to do with our life, today the struggle for life has started from an early age and education is only taken as the means to earn money not to live a happy life.This is the impact of the economy, poor and faulty education government policies and government inadequacy to nurture individual talent.

  2. Anahita

    Thanks for the compliment and for providing further insight into this delicate issue.I do agree that many aspects of society need to undergo transformation for us to tackle this situation but we must begin somewhere and this article is just my attempt to bring this issue to light.

  3. Milesh

    The major action to tackle this situation can be taken at an early age and this should be played by the teachers. The good teacher can manipulate the entire life of a student. Today, most of the teachers hired today are basically rutafication oreiented, even due to uneven student-teacher ratio they cannot grasp the individual passions and talent. At an early age, the fear of competition has been injected into the students, and so the lucrative professions thus became the choice of every students and the teachers also supports this.At the adolescence period, the interaction between the students and the teachers should be intensified and with the consent of the parents the teachers must make understand the students their responsibilities.The same can be applied for those parents who think of growing children for their survival, the parents should encourage the children to think of their survival through progressing.This can be achieved only when the reservations in education be eradicated, and the education in all sectors be made free to completely remove the money burden from the parents.The Youth Ki Awaz team can therefore if agreed can start the movement of waking the education system in the country by meeting individual schools in nook and corner of the country.After all our country can only progress if it has excellence in all sectors.

  4. Milesh

    I forgot to complete the sentence in the above comment,
    it is as,
    “…the parents should encourage the children to think of their survival through progressing their individual interests and talents….”

  5. Ruche

    Good work Anahita. I think such serious issues can only be tackled by the young people raising their voices and having open discussions. Parents and teachers can only lend a helping hand but ultimately it is up to the person. Today it is more important than ever for the youth to understand what they want to do in their life. Life is full of stresses and studies, school work, peer pressure are just the staring points. Most young people grow up with the mindset that one failure means the end of life, but its not. They should rather take it as a learning opportunity. As the old saying goes, “You learn from your mistakes (and others too)”.

  6. Brij

    If you are not ready to be wrong, you will never be original. This culture of letting kids try new things in life and experiment is still missing in India, which is a huge contribution to what children perceive as failure. Parents should realize that it is not a failure if their kid is a great dancer but is bad at math. You can’t be good at everything

  7. rohila

    good work tanu.i just hope all parents and teachers read this.also i think if there are a lot of colleges around then this pressure will not be there or atleast it will be less.

  8. Radhika

    I just read this, and am really happy to see that somebody has addressed the issue. I however feel too little has been done to reach out to students who face these problems on the ground.
    I was shocked at the apathy of some organisations I tried to reach out to, who specialize in the field, to reach out and address students at large.
    The only way to start tackling such issues and prevent them from repeatedly occuring, is to address them.
    But like with a lot of other issues, this too goes largely ignored.

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Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

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Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

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With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

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A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

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As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

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