Youth and suicide –
Suicide among youth is one of the most important problem faced by society today. Because suicide deaths accounts for 8.5% of all the deaths among youth( 15 -29 years ) around the world and it is second leading cause of death in them.
Therefore 3 important things to know for everyone are :
(A) Risk factors for depression and suicide in youth,
(B) Recognising distress/depression in youth, and
(C) Preventive strategies.
(A) Risk factors for suicide in youth:
These are the factors which make an individual more susceptible to suicide/depression as compared to others. There are many of them but lets have a look at some important ones.
More than 30 studies all over the world shows that children involved in bullying (both the culprit and victim ) are more likely to commit suicide than the others. Bullying is deliberate/intentional, harmful or disturbing behaviour that is repeated and involves imbalance of power (in relation to either physical strength or their popularity)
It can be direct physical (eg.assault/theft), direct verbal (eg.name calling/ threats/ insult), indirect relational (eg.social exclusion/spreading rumours etc.) or cyber bullying. More the duration of victimization, more the risk. Bullying increases the stress and decreases study performance and an attachment with the school.
2) Internet usage :
Video games or any kind of internet usage for more than 5 hours a day is associated with increased chances of depression and suicidality. There are many pro-suicide websites, online suicide pacts, online forums, deadly games etc.
3) Bad experiences in childhood :
Some of the bad experiences are physical, emotional or sexual abuse, death of one of the parent, depression or alcohol use in parent, impaired parent-child relationship, homelessness, frequent quarrels/ arguments among family members, behaviour at extreme end towards children like very harsh punishment for longer duration etc.
4) Media exposure:
The way any media covers news in relation to suicide can be detrimental to few of the susceptible youth. Like for example giving front page coverage, giving detailed description of method used, of an act or of an individual, showing suicidal attempts in movies etc. Imitation of suicidal behaviour shown on TV is well known.
5) Psychiatric illness:
An individual with psychiatric illnesses like depression, alcohol use, schizophrenia is also more likely to attempt suicide.
(B) Recognising distress/depression in youth:
As we all know very well, first thing in prevention is early detection and timely intervention into it. There are some features, symptoms which raise the suspicion/doubt about distress, depression or bullying etc. This is important as these signs are little different than that of depression in adults. Few of the symptoms are as follows –
- Excess irritability, anger outbursts or violent behaviour,
- Unusual and chronic physical symptoms/somatic complaints,
- Disobedience, disrespectful towards elders,
- Feeling of being unloved, self deprecation,
- Alcohol or other substance consumption,
- Social isolation, withdrawn,
- Not interested in any pleasurable activities,
- Decreased attachment with family, friends and school,
- Decreased performance in studies.
- Feeling of sadness/anxiety,
- Disturbed sleep etc…
(C) Preventive strategies:
Though all the risk factors cannot be eliminated but they can be reduced. Few of the preventive strategies are mentioned below.
- Parents, teachers and family doctors are the first contact for the youth. So they should be aware of signs and symptoms of distress/depression and approach for the help to counsellor (in case of distress) or psychiatrist (in case of depression).
- Good/healthy family and school environment are the protective factors in case of distress.
- Parents should talk to their children daily for atleast 15 minutes on random subjects. It creates a habit of expressing the emotions and sharing every minute details with closed ones.
- Strictly “NO” to alcohol use.
- Behaviour with the children should not be at extreme end. That means no extremes in love/hate/punishment/pampering etc.
- No easy availability for anything children asked for. There has to be “NO” for the things not required. This will inculcate the habit to digest “NO” or failures in a positive way.
- Good habits or rules for internet usage applicable to all the family members.
- School should have strict rules to avoid any type of bullying. For example having an anti ragging committee, CCTV cameras, appointing mentors/monitors among students and teachers to detect any bullying matters or distressed student etc.
- All kind of media should not ideally give undue importance to suicide related news or should not include scenes related to suicides.
- Outdoor sports should be encouraged along with studies for overall physical and emotional development of children.
It is the responsibility of society and family to give healthy environment to our children.