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YOUTH SUICIDE – AN OPEN SECRET

 

 

Suicide means the act or an instance of taking one’s own life voluntarily and intentionally. Youth suicide is when a young person, generally below 24 years of age purposely takes his/her own life. It is one of the most prevalent causes of death among young people and sadly, one of the least talked about. There is no easy way to describe depression. It is like an abyss or more like a black hole, a bottomless chasm which swallows one in their entirety.  Depression drives a person to such depths of darkness that it is impossible to find a way out without help. It traps one within the confines of their own mind and drives them to take the extreme step.

India has one of the world’s highest suicide rates for young people and the maximum occurs in the age group 14-29 (40 per 100,000 people). According to WHO, the suicide rate in India is 14.7 for every 1,00,000 women and 17.8 among every 1,00,000 men. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among the youth. Every 55 minutes a one person commits suicide and if that is not ghastly enough, for every successful suicide, there are 20 unsuccessful attempts.

After going through these grievous statistics, one is compelled to think about what the cause might be. During the course of my research, I found that all across the internet there were numerous causes attributed to youth suicide. These include scholastic burdens coupled with parental and peer pressure, rejection(mostly concerning a relationship) , physical and sexual abuse, bullying, depression and most recently substance abuse. Teens are also prone to suicide if they have a family history of suicide or prior mental illness.

The adolescent period is the most delicate period of human life. It is during this time that a child starts to see the world in a new light. He starts to detach from the protective canopy created by his parents during childhood and starts to create his own unique personality. But here’s when it gets problematic, teenagers have a lot of unbridled energy or exuberance but they lack the necessary clarity or balance. Teenagers are known to be rebels, pushing away their parents resulting in a state where they have absolutely no idea what to do with themselves. They want to discover life alone but they don’t realize that that is an extremely difficult task especially for someone who is going through puberty. Dealing with the hormones is awkward enough, let alone dealing with life. In India alone, 7600 children under the age of 15 committed suicide in 2017. When I think of my teen years, I remember being lost for a few years, not knowing what to do or feel but those times were much simpler. I think technology has complicated our lives more than simplifying it.

My father had a patient come to him recently. She was the mother of a 15-year-old girl who was conceived with a lot of infertility treatments after about 20 years of marriage. The girl had her board exams approaching so like any Indian mother, she locked up her daughter’s cell phone and told her to study. After an hour she went to her daughter’s room expecting her to be studying but the sight she saw left her dumbstruck. The girl was hanging from the fan with a rope around her neck and a note that read “I hate you mom.”Her mother now suffers from depression and has recurrent thoughts of wanting to kill herself. This is what the youth has become. We consider our cell phones and social media the crux of our existence. We don’t realize that the main component of life is life itself. If one’s life is gone, everything else is pointless. The famous mystic Sadhguru said that humans have a bad habit of looking beyond themselves in the search for happiness. We should work to transcend to such a level that anything external no longer affects us so drastically. It’s just like a self starting car that doesn’t require a key. We should propagate a way of life that enable people to be self starting. We should not give the keys to our happiness to anybody or anything else because when that someone leaves, we cannot restart. Humans were meant to be self starting vehicles but we seem to have forgotten that along the way.

Another major issue with Indian parents is their love for comparing their child with “sharma ji ka beta.” Parents are so caught up in the competition to earn what is called “izzat” or respect in the society that they forget to acknowledge the fact that their child excels in sports or music.I agree that grades matter but not more than healthy mind that is free and devoid of pressure. If the mind is healthy, excellence will be achieved in whatever task the mind is put to. And during this rat race of parents trying to fulfill the expectations of society and the child trying to fulfill the expectations of the parents, peace of mind is inevitably lost for both parents and the child.The maximum number of suicides occur during the period of board exams and competitive exams since students are terrified of disappointing their parents. The issue here lies with the education system where sole emphasis is laid upon marks rather than understanding or building social skills and personality. There is a huge distinction between ‘literacy’ and ‘education.’ It is just like a hamster cage with a wheel. The child runs and runs but gets nothing except frustration.

 

Last year, there was a video of 24 year old Arjun Bharadwaj committing suicide which circulated on facebook. It showed him drinking wine, dressed in bathrobe, plunging to his death from the 19th floor of a hotel. He recorded the video as a tutorial for people who want to end their lives. He had apparently reached out to his friends for help but they shut him down saying he was a rich entitled brat who wanted attention.In Indian society, the concept of mental health generates a lot of taboo. Anybody who is mentally ill is called ‘pagal.’This narrow minded thinking is the major cause of why mentally ill people do not seek help. In USA more than half the population have therapists to get them through tough times, but what do Indians teens have? Just a judgmental society and parents who want to keep their child’s illness under wraps until it is too late. Around 81% people who committed suicide confided in someone about their thoughts. How many of them did anything? None. And the result? Losing their loved ones. I am of the opinion that most of the social problems in India are because of the notorious “log kya kahenge” syndrome which unluckily, all of us have been inoculated by since we were born. This norm of not talking about problems and of concealing emotions till the point of no return is what is causing so many young people to take their own lives.

 

The solution to all this lies in just one word – honesty. Everyday we try to hide our struggles and feelings underneath a facade of well being. If only the world would be more open and honest in expressing feelings without groveling in shame maybe others would be encouraged to do the same. It is usually when we share our deepest darkest secrets that others share too. It is imperative to get suicidal teens to talk because the more they bottle up inside the more tendency they have to buckle under that pressure and it is only when there is trust and honesty that someone can share what they feel without the fear of unloading their burden on the other person or feeling ashamed. In 2015, actor Deepika Padukone came out about her battle with depression . She urged everyone to come out with their struggles and even established the Live Love Laugh foundation. She understood that the only way we can fight this evil is by talking about it. That is the only solution. If everyone started communicating, no one would feel alone. No one would feel like they’re the only one going through life feeling that way. The sole method to get rid of youth suicide is awareness and making the taboo of mental health disappear. Only if the youth feels confident enough to seek help will suicide reduce.

 

Schools can also play a major role in reducing depression and suicide among youngsters by encouraging them to take up extra curricular activities from a young age, be it sports, art, writing, dance or music, since they are truly great ways to express feelings for people who have trouble talking either due to lack of a listener or due to introversion. I feel that the existence of an alternate way of expression will help individuals to channel their feelings in a healthy and risk-free way. Teachers should also be trained to recognize signs of poor mental health and provide assistance when needed.

 

In conclusion, youth suicide is the most bitter truth of society which claims so many lives each day just because people are frightened and ashamed to address the issue headfirst by talking about it. India has only about 3500 trained psychiatrists and even less psychologists. That means there are merely 3 psychiatrists for a million people. Moreover, the stigma and prejudice faced by these people and their families keep them from seeking help. The only way we can do away with this problem is by getting involved. So the next time someone talks to you about wanting to kill themselves, please don’t just walk away thinking it is a phase. Please get them help. Suicides don’t just happen to other people. It can happen to someone you love too. The least we can do is listen.

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Dreams and reality

Looking up at the glowing star stickers on the ceiling of his nursery, the rich man’s son asked his father “what if I want to really get up there?” The man smiled and said “you only need to dream son, I will do the rest.” Hearing this, the servant boy cheerfully piped in “what do I need to do?” The man looked at him angrily and rebuked him for speaking in between. Sometimes just dreaming is not enough.