CHENNAI: On the internet, one can learn how to make biryani. And a bomb. While it empowers, it also provides a platform for exploitation of impressionable minds. Pro-suicide sites are among the most dangerous on the internet today, that open up a deep, dark world where Death is romanticised and Life is ridiculed.
This came to light after the death of a 14-year-old boy who committed suicide in Mumbai on July 31 as a result of participating in the Blue Whale Game. “There’s no mechanism to counter such poisonous sites,” says cyber law expert Pavan Duggal. “It’s impossible for the government to monitor the internet, but they could set guidelines that make it binding on service providers or intermediaries to remove such content when notified.”
The Netflix show 13 Reasons Why is being criticised for its glorification of suicide. Its impact: a 17-year-old girl in Chennai began cutting herself, believing the pain was pleasurable. “You can't fight the internet,” says psychologist Smruthy Nair. “Children should be able to access counsellors and therapists without being stigmatised. They should feel that if you have a cold, you visit the doctor and if you have depression, you visit a therapist.”
This comes with its own challenges. According to the World Health Organisation in 2015, India has one trained mental health specialist for 3,00,000 people. Tamil Nadu needs to pay special attention to these figures as it ranks second in India with 15,777 suicides (National Crime Records Bureau report for 2015). “Parents need to stop living in denial and accept that their children might have psychological issues,” says psychological counsellor Sneha Hindocha. “They need to be more accepting if their child confides in them.”
While suicide has generally been associated with the individual, society’s role is remarkable. “Suicide has a lot to do with alienation and disenchantment from society,” explains J Sasitha, Head of the Department of Sociology at Stella Maris College. “Those who do not get comfort from their primary group or family tend to seek comfort elsewhere. These children believe they will get that comfort online as the internet provides them with anonymity and the opportunity to interact with others who reinforce their dubious notions.”
Apart from the parents, even friends, relatives and colleagues should take cognisance of changes in behaviour.