Teen Suicide Is a Real Problem in India
Teen suicide is higher globally but India tops the world in teen suicides. Every 90 minutes, a teen tries to commit suicide in India and every six hours, one succeeds.
Over 100,000 Indians commit suicide every year. One third of them are below twenty years of age.
While the global teen suicide rate is 14.5 per 100,000, a 2004 study by the Christian Medical College (CMC), Vellore reported 148 for girls and 58 for boys in India.
These are statistics from years before 2010 and the current numbers will certainly frighten us further.
Social media has turned our attention to suicide notes left by these helpless, frustrated, hopeless, angry, unhappy, defeated children who are not mere statistics but a ‘bloom-worthy life cut short’.
Teen Suicide Leaves Painful Scars
An open letter written by D.M. of Kota district in Rajasthan to parents of IIT aspirants is the tip of the iceberg.
“Each teen suicide slaps us hard on our social faces, our self-assured over confident rigid parenting skills, our academic success obsessed mind-sets.”
The number of teen suicides is alarming for sure. Each suicide leaves behind a wound which remains painful and unhealed always.
Each suicide is a reminder of our collective failure as elders, seniors, guides, mentors, social leaders and parents. We have collectively achieved this feat of making India a teen suicide hotbed.
How do we manage to push the very people we claim to love to the wall? Why do we feel a sudden shock after the suicide if we knew the perpetrator closely?
Why can’t we see it coming? Do we believe that suicide, like cancer happens to others only? What has made our country a suicide hotbed?
I am merely listing my thoughts as reasons when there could be many others.
We Expect A Lot From Others
“Sania admitted with surprise that people messaged and behaved as if they hadn’t won something in five years.”
Sania and Martina won 41 matches in a row and then lost a few championships. After that, they won the Italian Open recently.
Sania admitted with surprise that people messaged and behaved as if they hadn’t won something in five years. They already have three Grand Slam double titles to their name for this year.
Our expectations are soaring before the Fourth and the Final Grand Slam of the year. Correspondents are already asking them about the Fourth Grand Slam prospects.
For Indians, love means expectations. If we love someone, we expect a great deal from him/her.
Apart from love and expectations, our children are juggling with information overload, multi-media interference and an ocean of options.
Wrong seeds seem to be sown from the very beginning. Our parents shout out their expectations from us pertaining to our academic performance and duty towards family members.
Too High An Expectation Can Lead To Teen Suicide
We grew up balancing love and expectation in our two hands. Our young selves knew that if we fail to fulfil the expectations our share of love would reduce and make us unwanted and guilty.
In this digital age, this balance has become a juggling act. Apart from love and expectations, our children are juggling with information overload, multi-media interference and an ocean of options.
Despite so many options available to carve a professional life, we still sow the same seeds of expectations in our children’s mind. As these seeds germinate, they come in contact with other options, through lot of information from varied sources.
The mental agony faced by the child is muted by expecting obedience from them. The more they languish under expectations, the more they strive to talk to others for a way out.
Children are further silenced as parents provide them with more facilities in the form of tuitions, electronic gadgets and some emotional monologues.
It is a pressure that has been building slowly with no way to release it.
For us, B and C grades happen to other children, not to ours. A child who feels pressurised by expectations doesn’t start feeling it overnight. It is a pressure that has been building slowly with no way to release it.
An observant parent, a considerate elder or a likeminded friend could have helped in releasing the pressure. We need to find out ways to communicate with our children who feel that they can’t handle it on their own.
We need to listen to them rather than read their letters after they leave us clueless and shattered.
Observe them closely – their body language, their sleeping patterns, their tone on phone (if they are away). Are we losing our alertness as parents? Are we losing our emotional connect with them?
We Compare Too Much To Others
As a nation, we love to compare and criticise. It could well be our national game. This comparison damages the psyche of children in two ways.
First, they feel that their parents, elders don’t love them enough. It gets indelibly etched on their hearts if they are compared with others continuously.
Second, they always try to measure up to someone else and fail to develop self-awareness. This causes lot of frustration when other friends/siblings perform better.
A self-confident child would neither compare himself/herself nor get influenced by such comparisons.
In each exam/competition, we ask our children, “How much did your friend get?” “What is the rank of the friend you spend most of your time with?”
Wrong seeds are again sown very early. In each exam/competition, we ask our children, “How much did your friend get?” “What is the rank of the friend you spend most of your time with?”
If we clearly state that we are only concerned with their performance and their improvement, we are saving our children from futile pressure.
A child who is compared simmers with anger. He/she feels unwanted and unloved.
We need to convey this message clearly and repetitively to our children that they can depend on us, come what may. We need to tell them that we are their permanent safety nets.
Are we tuning our own children out? Are we taking too many things for granted?
We Need To Change Our Attitude To Prevent Teen Suicide
We realise that our lifestyles, our life concerns are changing every day. Have we realised that our parenting actions are not completely in sync with these changes?
Rather than telling our children to value their class performances, we need to tell them to ‘value life’.
Our children are not developing the skills required to face this changing world because we are not emphasising enough on ‘coping skills’ and ‘self-awareness’.
When we ourselves feel bogged down by pressure and can’t handle it well, how do we teach our children to handle pressure?
Technology has gate-crashed into our lives so subtly but completely that it has overpowered our day to day existence.
With our professional & personal responsibilities, we have Wi-Fi responsibilities towards social media sites, online shopping platforms and 24×7 phone calls. T
echnology has sucked our attentiveness and mindfulness making us more stressed. Media channels further fuel the negativity by propagative life threatening instances as staple daily dosage.
When we ourselves feel bogged down by pressure and can’t handle it well, how do we teach our children to handle pressure? Don’t think that I am encouraging a laid back, zero achievement childhood.
I am not expounding that parents should mollycoddle and indulge the children and society should treat them with a kid’s glove.
I am proposing three things to curb this teen suicide menace which is trending and hence is being portrayed as a solution, not a problem.
1. It is not what you teach, it is what you emphasize
This was said by basketball coach Don Mayer. You do things over and over – practice and repeat.
“Pressure is a privilege “– Let us teach our children to thrive under pressure by facing it and losing without guilt and shame.
“Failure is sweet” –Let us make them strong enough to face failure. Let us celebrate failure with them so that they can confide their fears in us openly, not through letters saying “I am sure you will understand”.
Emphasize on the right lessons from birth to prepare them for bigger battles of life. We emphasize on smaller conquests and never talk about the bigger picture.
2. Observe them silently, closely, passionately, regularly, honestly.
Silently, because we can listen to the heartful truth in silence.
losely, because there is more distance between two rooms sometimes than between cities.
Passionately, because Parenting can be a pain and you might slip when you need to hang on the most.
Regularly , because our children change faster than the next IOS software.
Honestly, because you might be tempted to deny seeing the real child as compared to your “dream child”. This observation followed by clear communication will give you enough idea about the aspirations of your child so that you know which direction is his/her calling.
Encourage them to excel in the area of their interest. Don’t let them be careless and shoddy as a life approach. Mentor them to be an excellent homemaker or an amazing storyteller. You give birth to a life, not to a package ticking all the standard boxes.
3. Imagine a garden with different plants, shrubs, trees growing in it.
Gardeners take care of all these plants, shrubs and trees by nurturing them, giving manure, water as per the need of each of them.
Despite all the care, some of them don’t grow as quickly as others, some even wilt away for no reason.
Can a gardener change a mango tree into a guava tree or can a gardener expect a jasmine shrub to grow straight like a coconut tree?
Parents are like gardeners who should nurture the gifts called children with unconditional love, silent observation, unending encouragement and strategic guidance.
My book “Don’t Raise Your Children, Raise Yourself talks about ‘crescendo presence’ of parents in the lives of children. This presence is a mindfull presence that observes children and helps them align well with future expectations.
If maximum number of suicides in India happen due to family problems, if maximum number of teen suicide is due to pressure, we need to push our ‘call to action’ button.
Let us login to ourselves to grow old with our children, not their memories.
Please add your thoughts about reasons behind more teen suicides in India in the comment section.