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Child Suicides: What Can We Do? By Tanya Goveas

Eleven year old reality star kills self… HSC girl ends life as family steps out to the market… 21 suicides in a month… Fed up with life, teen kills self on parent’s anniversary..

New Bitmap ImageThese are not incidents happening in distant places, but are a shocking reality of cities such as Mumbai. The fact that instances of suicides are on the rise is disturbing enough. But what is truly deplorable is that children are committing suicide.

While child suicides did happen in the past, they were certainly not so frequent. The bottom line therefore is that this problem always existed and is very much a part of our everyday lives. Were it not for the reports in newspapers and television, I would be oblivious to the gravity of this problem. What scares me is the fact that one will never really know if a child truly has suicidal tendencies. The indicators are not foolproof.

Gone are the days when children were just….children. Innocent, naïve, happy and carefree are adjectives used to describe children: But do they still hold ground today? Have they matured overnight? Does the license to commit such a drastic act lie only with adults?

From the numerous cases that we have read and heard, one surprising aspect is that many times these victims (children) have shown no indication of any stress, hurt, anger or depression. It is baffling to know that children at such a young and vulnerable age can hide their true feelings. The façade of normalcy very often ends up fooling the relatives and families of the affected individuals.

A number of times, even if the indicators are prominent, it is not given too much importance by the families. Why is it so? Is it because a child has always been looked at as a dependent? They are not considered as individuals in society; leave alone being citizens. We need to understand that they have rights too, just like us ‘adults’. In addition, they have the right to be loved and taken care of.

Children require special attention; their needs too are different. It would be wrong to criticize the way children are brought up by their parents because I am not the right judge in this aspect. However I firmly believe that one needs to analyze this situation by taking some time out and answering a couple of questions.

• Are children growing up too fast? Do they truly have a childhood? Is innocence allowed to exist?
• What are the effects of parental pressure, peer pressure and the society on a child?
• It is a known fact that there is too much of exposure and access to inappropriate information without accountability. Isn’t it time both parents and children become more answerable to each other?
• Shouldn’t children be kept away from the clutches of cut throat competition?
• Why are so many children the victims of various kinds of abuse – mental, physical, sociological, economic, etc?
• Very often bias among siblings by parents and family due to age, ability, gender too tend to create a lasting impression on the mind of the neglected child. Isn’t it time for parents having two or more children to leave aside their prejudices and love all their children for who they are?
• Do we truly take our children’s problems seriously?

In any discussion on children suicides, I feel that it is of utmost importance that both, parents and children be heard. With this in mind, I spoke to a cross-section of people.

Akshita Kothari, a 16 years old SSC student believes that there is nothing wrong with the education system. It might be getting tougher as the years go on, but children want the easy way out rather than having to work hard. One should stay focused and not get distracted with negativity. Instead of complaining and cribbing, keeping a positive attitude is the key to staying happy. Besides this, talking openly to parents and friends will help to de-stress. Suicide is not a way out of one’s problems. It will only result in hurting the victim’s family and close ones.

Animesh Gaggar, a 17 years old student from Raj Hans, is of the opinion that suicides are caused due to multiple factors, and parental pressure to perform well is the predominant factor. According to him, liberty and freedom should be given to every child and they must not be constantly forced to live up to their parent’s high expectations. However he believes that suicide is certainly no way of dealing with this situation and there are other alternatives which differ from situation to situation. In case one is afraid to discuss their problems with parents, approaching a counselor can also be helpful.

Rounak Damani, a 21 year old Commerce student firmly believes that committing suicide is not at all the solution. However he also feels that there is a limit as to how much a person can share their problems with others. Only the affected child knows what he/she is going through. In a disturbed state of mind, these drastic acts seems logical and right to them. These children might be lonely and may feel that their parents or close ones will not understand their problem or will get angry. Therefore, they might never disclose their true feelings and will make everything appear to be normal. His only advice to teenagers and other children is that “Talking to people who are close to you might help to an extent. The most important factor is to be optimistic and positive in life, no matter how hard a situation might be. Be satisfied with whatever you have. Do not fall prey to mindless competition. Lastly, always remember that lessons learnt in life are more important than those learnt on paper.”

Devika Mehta, a 21 year old pursuing a Masters’ in Psychology, feels that the media plays a very important role in influencing people, especially young minds, by portraying the act of committing suicide as the easy way out. Moreover, there is a lot of parental pressure as they expect too much from their children. Kids who are stressed out do not realize the difference between what is right and wrong. Parental pressure just adds up to their stress. Very often instead of understanding their children’s problems, they still expect their children to do their best instead of just doing well as per their capabilities. Though it might not always be study related issues, it is important to understand the root cause of the problem affecting the child. Sometimes, it might be pressure from external factors as well. The underlining point is the need for a supportive environment wherein a problem being faced by an individual can be sensed by the people around him/her at an early stage. Sadly, however not everyone enjoys such a holistic environment.

Mrs. Jean Pereira, a Teacher and Counselor, analyses this situation by stating that parents always compare their children to others rather than comparing the child’s past performances and current progress. All of us need to realize that two individuals cannot be compared because they have different personalities, abilities, strengths, weaknesses, talents, etc. Comparisons lead to a decline in one’s self esteem. Not only parents, but even children tend to compare themselves to others. Instead of this, they must learn to compete with themselves. This will help one to at least feel good as an individual. However though this approach will not help to drastically improve one’s performance, one will surely feel a sense of achievement. Besides the issue of making comparisons, the copy cat syndrome also influences the human mind especially those at a young age. She also states that adolescents are most unhappy with their own parents. According to Sigmond Freud, one is at the ‘ego’ stage during the age of adolescence. In this stage everything a child does is right according to them. Though they know they might be wrong, they will go all out of their way trying to prove or support their beliefs and actions. All adolescents go through this phase, coupled with the search for individuality. All of us must remember that these factors most often occur simultaneously and it boils down to lowering one’s self esteem and pride.

Mrs. Sheela Goveas a parent of two, very beautifully concludes the differences, “Children are not the result of an assembly-line production. Each and every child is unique with his/her own special qualities. Nurture these and watch your children grow as unique individuals – carving a special niche for themselves in society”.

Child Suicides: Preventing more deaths

After listening to all these voices, I realized that there are some things that can and need to be done without delay. Some things we as parents and children can do right away are:

Reduce the communication gap between parents and kids. Let them feel comfortable sharing almost everything and make it a point to ask them for their opinion. Open and frequent communication helps in recognizing symptoms of distress, tension, depression at a nascent stage. This can be tackled immediately and successfully as opposed to confronting it at an aggravated stage.
Give children their space. They are growing minds at a vulnerable and volatile age.
Proper guidance and supervision is a must. Too many restrictions however, could sometimes make children rebellious. Therefore, a balance needs to be achieved. Parental intervention is necessary especially when it comes to accessing the internet, television, books etc.
Parents and elders should be involved in their kid’s work and daily schedule till they are old enough to take their own decisions.
The education system needs to be more student friendly. Too much emphasis is laid on rote learning rather than actually understanding and implementing the content that is learnt. Here again the subject of practicality of the curriculum needs to be addressed. The pressure to always score well needs to cease.
Teachers need to be guardians who truly care for the wellbeing and growth of their students. They must not beat, humiliate, punish or compare students in front of the whole classroom. A negative impact is left on the minds of those who are subjected to such treatment.
Peers too play a very important role in a child’s life. A conscious effort must be made to lay stress on the effects of bad company which could be detrimental to the child. It must however be explained that it is not the friend who is bad, but their harmful and destructive habits that are likely to cause a negative influence on the child.
The media too can play a prominent role in this regard. It must be responsible and not sensationalize reports on suicides. The internet, newspapers, television, radio, books, magazines, etc. must be cautious and accountable whenever they highlight information even if it is for entertainment purposes. Many times movies tend to romanticize suicides. This needs to stop.

Children are special beings. With a little extra caution, love, care and attention by the parents, family and society at large, child suicides can be reduced to a great extent. The problem should be recognized and focus should be given to the rights of children as citizens, as individuals of society and as human beings. Their problems should be taken seriously with sensibility; not neglected and pushed away to the background.

Children are an important part and parcel of humanity. The issue of suicides among minors is not a cause of grave concern in the city of Mumbai alone, but is of serious apprehension throughout the world. We should all work towards ensuring a safe, secure, happy and distress free life for all our young ones.

I would now like to open this article up for discussion and debate. Do post your comments.


Tanya Goveas is a CRY Volunteer and a student of the Government Law College, Mumbai. About this piece, she says, “The reason I decided to write on this issue is because I feel hurt and horrified about this situation and I genuinely hope that my words would help save the lives of all those children contemplating suicide.”

 

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