Saturday, January 16, 2010

Children Commiting Suicide - A New Challenge

All of a sudden newspapers are full of reports about children, mostly teens and young adults taking their own lives. I am not sure whether this was a regular occurance earlier and it is only now this is getting prominence, or this is a new problem which we as a society are facing.

The reasons for commiting suicide vary from the predictable to the bizzare. One has heard of teens taking their lives due to failure in exams, or rejection in love but suicide on grounds of loneliness, lack of preparation for exams, not being permitted to learn dancing...are certainly new and confounding. One suicide case certainly bordered on the bizzare. The child wanted to meet and be close to her deceased father.

Every loss of a young life is tragic and shatters the family involved. Life moves on and the family would eventually get on with their lives and time the great healer will fill these wounds. The question here is why does this happen?

Let me try and understand our existing circumstances and put things in perspective. I cannot claim deep understanding of teen affairs but I base my understanding on my observations of my daughters and their friends. I would ike to believe that this would be as contemporary as it gets.

I would believe that parents have a critical role to play. Grand-parents, cousins, uncles/ aunts and immediate  circle of relatives form an important protective and supportive circle around. Friends are an important  social support system. Apart from these teachers do also play an important role.

One clear advantage of having an active social network of relatives and friends is the emotional support that one can draw from them. A sharp rebuke or a scolding from a  teacher is eased by parents or friends. Hurt after a fight with a sibling can be balmed by a friend or relative and so on. The funny part is we draw on this well of comfort / support all the time but never realise it.

A teen yet to fully develop emotional balance gets the comfort and strength to face many such reverses of life. This "on-demand" availability of the "soft touch" so to say has helped many a teen (including us back then) in handling the various pains of growing up.

It is time we acknowledge that many children in our society do not have an adequate support system around them. This may be a result of many factors but modern life is certainly a big contributor. Let me try and present gaps that have developed in our lives and the dangers they pose.

I would like my blogger friends ti share their their thoughts on what they think about this new problem surfacing in our lives.

17 comments:

Vinod_Sharma said...

Off hand, tow reasons strike me. First is that these days more such cases appear in the media than they ever did, giving the impression that the rate is going up. Second, thanks to the information explosion, teenagers are more aware of others like them committing suicides elsewhere for reasons that are disturbing them too. That plants the seed of thought of taking the same step. And so actually do.

Mavin said...

The pressure to succeed at any cost can overwhelm many a person. A student with a not so mature mental make-up would snap like a twig.

A strong emotional bonding and support at the right time helps prevent such desperate acts.

We need to have a completely different approach towards bringing up children and the whole gamut of education.

Happy Kitten said...

First time on your blog..

have a teenage daughter myself and a son on his way to teenhood...

Today's world is very competitive and the children are pressurised beyond their ability.. the parents need to be more grounded and around for support.. and as you said relatives and friends too..but it is easier said than done..

our education system also needs to be reformed...

Mavin said...

Hello HK,

Welcome to My Voice.

I have anxious moments myself being father of two daughters one in hr mid-teens and the other a few years elder.

Relatives and friends are so very valuable for this very reason.

We do not live in a joint family but we make it a point to maintain close relations with all cousins and uncles / aunts and grandparents. Similarly with friends.

We have to take the lead and facilitate bonding. That is our insulation in a harsh world. It does not take a lot...believe me.

I agree with you about education and stress levels. Whilst reforms may take time, family support is something that must be easily accessible and given without reservation.

Ugich Konitari said...

When I think of how things were when I went to school (I am 60), it seems to me that the actual "mix" of smart people and unsmart people in school classes was same as today, but there was a realization that everyone doesnt mature at the same rate. Combine this with the fact that extended families were common, and the children learned to wait for their share, of whatever they aspired for, and learned a kind of balance.

Today, we try to slot all children in one set of standard expectations. Migration has created nuclear families, who have the money but no time to attend or even notice the child's mentality change. The final nail in the thing is this pressure and compulsion to become something you have no aptitude for.

How can today's student handle this ? Television gives him a way to take his mind off things. And ideas.

The crux is that there needs to communication between the parents and children, which is missing. Sending them to tuition classes, giving them expensive presents, and substituting money for feelings and words is what goes for communication today.

Notice the number of parents who say they noticed no change in the child. (Were they around ?). How many parents take "open house" days at schools seriously ? I have seen this personally myself.

Everyone cannot have brilliant children. But you can do a lot as a parent to instill confidence in them. If you only gave them time.

manju said...

I agree with your point about having an active network of relatives.

I see some parents today becoming jealous if their children have a close relationship with grandparents or uncles/ aunts. But these relationships are also important for the development of a child, I feel.

Not only parents put pressure on children to excel in formal studies. Our entire education structure is geared that way- unfortunately.

Anrosh said...

i agree with UK when she says " But you can do a lot as a parent to instill confidence in them" don't push them! but talk to them. don't yell at them. especially when you are in class 9 onwards ..a difficult age. average students just need an encouraging parent, an enthusiastic parent , a good friend, a great mentor -- and please don't compare children to a neighbors child !- it is the worst thing that a parent can do.

but all these rarely happens - or parents are not confident enoguh of their parenting skills and to take pride in the fact that their kids are history and politically analyst buffs than maths buffs. i know how a parent can feel ashamed of their child, until the kid finds his own way -- winding always, but with a goal - and one will get "there".

success is measured in terms of happiness quiotent not the wealth that you have gathered.

Mavin said...

Hello Ugich Konitari

Welcome to My Voice.

For one, in our school days, pressure was less. Competition was definitely there but not as severe.
Our sense of restlessness results in us believing that stakes are very high and we take a lot of stress.

In all these years, our population has nearly doubled but education facilities have not expanded as much.

Your comment on breakdown of extended family structures and its impact on children is very correct. I am a great fan of family bonding.

No amount of gifts or lavish lifestyle can substitute time spent or bonding with children. All this is out of guilt for neglecting them.

Maybe, we need to learn parenting first before we look for any solution.

Mavin said...

Hi Manju,

We are so caught up in our rat race that we have no time or enegy to catch up with friends and relatives.

Further, we are so distracted or fatigued that our communication with children is reduced to the bare minimum.

We have complicated our lives....

Mavin said...

Hi An,

I remembered something about parent-child relationship.

We need to calibrate our relationship with our children. Atleast till their mid-teens, we need to maintain high relationship. Discipline is high till say ten years or so. This reduces slowly as the child grows through its teen years.

Like I said in the earlier comment, we need to learn parenting before we look for other solutions.

Krishnan said...

Yes Mavin it is indeed distressing to read and watch on TV reports of children/teens taking their own lives. Our fast changing lifestyle is one of the inciting factors I feel. Parents hardly have time for their kids. Quality time spent by parents with their kids will go a long way in addressing this problem.

gemini said...

in my country, it's the financial aspect that's taking a big toll in the life of our young people, how can you cure poverty when your leaders cannot solve corruption.

Tarot Diva said...

Thats really sad indeed...

suicide be it of a child or a fully grown adult... is wrong.!!

I wont say it as an act of cowardice... but somehow its more to with your surroundings.....

Mavin said...

Hello Gemini

Welcome to My Voice

Here it is pressure getting too much to handle.

We do have many farmers committing suicides as droughts and crop failures in successive years have driven them deep in debt.

It is a difficult situation.

Mavin said...

Hello Tarot Diva

Welcome to My Voice.

Yes it is unfortunate that these children and young adults seek their solutions by ending their lives.

indianhomemaker said...

I feel it isn't just the parents but also the schools that pressurise the students. Many schools have 'scholar badges' in various colours to indicate the worth of the students - but these badges only cover academics and that too generally science subjects. Some schools stop the children in class IX even if they have minimum pass percentage because they want good class X results! Some schools display results on a notice board - can be traumatic for a child who hasn't scored well, some teachers believe scolding a child might improve their performance ... some of these things happened earlier also, but earlier schools didn't compete (better business for school) as much.
Many schools do not have Humanities in classes XI and XII (or junior college).

Parents can undo some of the damage (unless they are also party to it, which is very likely), but most parents teach the children that teachers are always right and they tend to trust another adult more than their child - so even if the child tries to say he is not up to the challenge, the parents feel he is being lazy!

I feel Kapil Sibal's reforms might help if the schools don't start threatening the students with 'internal assessment'.

indianhomemaker said...

I feel it isn't just the parents but also the schools that pressurise the students. Many schools have 'scholar badges' in various colours to indicate the worth of the students - but these badges only cover academics and that too generally science subjects. Some schools stop the children in class IX even if they have minimum pass percentage because they want good class X results! Some schools display results on a notice board - can be traumatic for a child who hasn't scored well, some teachers believe scolding a child might improve their performance ... some of these things happened earlier also, but earlier schools didn't compete (better business for school) as much.
Many schools do not have Humanities in classes XI and XII (or junior college).

Parents can undo some of the damage (unless they are also party to it, which is very likely), but most parents teach the children that teachers are always right and they tend to trust another adult more than their child - so even if the child tries to say he is not up to the challenge, the parents feel he is being lazy!

I feel Kapil Sibal's reforms might help if the schools don't start threatening the students with 'internal assessment'.