Kids stressed out and suicidal  

Let’s not look at the statistics or the number game that journalists are pressed to quote to back their stories as factual news.

Published: 21st November 2022 05:12 AM  |   Last Updated: 21st November 2022 05:12 AM   |  A+A-

Image used for representational purposes only. (Express Illustrations)

Express News Service

BENGALURU: “This life. This night. Your story. Your pain. Your hope. It matters. All of it matters.” -- Jamie Tworkowski

Let’s not look at the statistics or the number game that journalists are pressed to quote to back their stories as factual news. Suicide is a serious issue. “After accident, suicide is the second important cause of death among adolescents,” said Child & Adolescent Psychiatrist Dr Satish Girimaji.

Every life counts and is precious. It is ironic that those who gave up on their lives did not believe they were precious too, and had much going for them. The most disheartening cases are of minors ending their lives. It is a grim reflection of our family and academic upbringing. Why should an adolescent end his or her life unless they view it as hopeless? Who is responsible for seeding and nurturing such a view? The three cases of adolescents committing suicide in Bengaluru in the past six months because of alleged poor academic performance cannot alone be reason for them to take such an extreme step. There must have been some precedence.

Lack of interest in studies is not always a child’s ‘crime’. What was the family and school support that each of them got for non-performance in academics? Were they allowed to vent their ‘non-achievement’ to their parents and teachers? How interested was either party in investing time in ‘weak’ and ‘disinterested’ children, when they have the perils of their own survival in a highly competitive rat race?
There are several incidents and reasons which build up in a vulnerable child’s mind, which combined with hormones can lead them to take a disastrous and irreversible step. At the end, the smallest trigger, a seemingly petty reason, is the proverbial last straw on the camel’s back.

Benchmark of success
To understand why a child’s performance in school as per adult expectation has become a yardstick of success in the job market, we need to look at our educational system. If marks and degrees were the benchmark of one’s intellect and aptitude to fetch the most sought-after jobs, then why do postgraduates end up applying for constable and Class 3 employee jobs in the government sector? 

The reasons are that our educational system is not geared to create an employable workforce, and our belief that best performance in education is the ladder to success, despite the reality that today, there are many more work opportunities than ever before, especially for those with imagination and self-belief.

A recent visit to Bastar in Chhattisgarh was an eye-opener to what the youth can aspire and achieve for themselves, even with limited resources. The district, known for Naxal activities, has young boys and girls starting unicorns with the help of the government.  

A UPSC aspirant, who could not qualify in the country’s ace exam in three attempts, has started a unicorn of providing private tuition at affordable fees. “We have hired teachers in different disciplines and they give home tuition to students at affordable rates. It’s a win-win situation for students, teachers and me,” said the young girl. Her spirit and self-conviction to achieve was heartening, despite perceived failure. That’s the messaging our young need.

A young mother, who admitted her three-year-eight-month-old daughter in nursery school soon after pre-schools opened after the Covid-19 pandemic, has been keenly pursuing her child’s social development in school. “I want to know whether my daughter is able to make friends and play with them. The last two years have been a difficult time for children, without schools and friends. They have lost out on social skills. I am not so concerned about her academics right now. I know she will catch up,” said the 35-year-old mother.

“Children have suffered the most during the Covid-19 pandemic, largely because of lack of opportunities to use their social and life skills. Deskilling among children is of concern. Most of them have got adjusted, but there are some vulnerable children who are finding it difficult to cope with multi stressors,” said Dr Girimaji. “Academic difficulties have become glaring for some after schools reopened.”

Historically, and more so now, many IITians and IIM graduates seek a completely different career path from their educational qualification. Many of them drop out midway because they are no longer able to connect with the course, which they may have joined due to parental pressure. For recruitment as police constable in the State police, minimum educational requirement is Class X, but a majority of applicants are postgraduates! There are those with PhDs in their resumes as well. Apart from focusing on academics, teaching and helping children with life skills at home and schools will go a long way in confidence building.

New-age parenting
What time do parents spend with their children, given the fact that Indian families can no longer run on single income? With both parents working, children grow up in a lock-and-key environment. Earlier, it used to be the television, now it is the mobile phone which they have 24x7 for company. An oft-quoted argument in favour of the absent adult is that not every child is distracted or gives up on studies.

So, how is this child different? Do comparisons help? They only aggravate a situation, which needs to be addressed early and with empathy. In a milieu where external affirmation on social media defines one’s identity, the adolescent is the most vulnerable target of family, peer and academic pressure.
For each suicide, there are at least 5 to 10 cases of attempted suicide. There can be none if only we pay attention to them. “Suicide is a cry for help. It is not an impulsive decision,” said noted life skill and behavioural expert Dr Ali Khwaja.

“Mental health promotion, including life skills enhancement, needs to be part of a larger society. It is argued that life skills should not be just a part of curriculum of schools, but part of the school environment,” argued Devvrat Kumar, Professor of Psychiatry, National Institute of Mental Health & Neuro Sciences (Nimhans).

“The classroom, playground activities, teacher-student interactions and the like should all be facilitative of mental health. If children are helped in a proactive manner to imbibe and enhance life-skills, which may, in turn, build virtues such as resilience and stress tolerance, it can be a major safeguard against suicide in society,” he added.

Extreme step

March - November 2022

Around 10 students committed suicide this year

According to police records, from January till date, 1,240 people have allegedly committed suicide; of them, about 20 per cent is students

A student killed himself by jumping from the 23rd floor of an apartment complex. 
He was reportedly irregular in college and his exam performance dropped in the second year 

Two 16-year-old Class 10 students committed suicide after allegedly being caught indulging in test malpractice at school. One of them left behind a two-page suicide note, stating that she was unable to live with the guilt 

Suicide helpline - 080-46110007

(With inputs from Ramkrishna Badseshi, Tushar Majukar and Subhash Chandra)


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