Adolescent suicides are preventable. What parents and educators should know about the reasons, the warning signs and the preventive steps that can protect their teens?
Last week, one of my friends shared an unexpected incident with me about her twelve-year-old niece. She used to maintain a diary in which she takes notes about her daily activities and reflections. One day, her mother was shocked to read some of the entries from her diary where she mentioned that “…I think my life is empty as nobody, even my mother, understands me…I think I should kill myself.” This journal entry of a twelve-year-old gives us a clear look at what kind of stress our teenagers are going through especially when they are confining to their homes, socially distant from their friends and relatives. However, the much-needed question is, are parents aware of how to handle such kind of circumstances? Or what steps parents should take to mitigate the risk?
The pandemic is threatening to have a devastating legacy on the nation’s young, ranging from increasing rates of mental health problems to concerns about rising levels of abuse and neglect. Schools are the places where kids socialise, develop emotionally and, for some, a refuge from troubled family life. Professor Russell Viner, president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, put it most clearly when he said, “When we close schools, we close their lives.” He further asserted that pandemic had caused a range of harms to children globally, from being isolated and lonely to suffering from sleep problems and reduced physical.
However, apart from school closures, the rising level of unemployment and financial insecurity combined with stay-at-home orders has strain families and home life. The WHO estimates that nearly 800,000 people die by suicide every year, making it a global phenomenon. Suicide, an act of killing oneself voluntarily and intentionally, is quite prevalent in low- and middle-income countries and is the second leading cause of death among young people (15-29 years of age). Although Pakistan is said to have lower suicide rates than other countries, the absence of official statistics makes these rates hard to determine.
Also Read | Why Suicidal Thoughts Are Appeared to Be Common Among Teens?
Why Teenagers feel Suicidal?
According to American Health Rankings, risk factors associated with suicide among adolescents include:
- Psychiatric disorders such as major depressive, bipolar, conduct and substance use disorders
- Psychiatric comorbidity, especially the combination of mood, disruptive and substance abuse disorders
- Family history of depression or suicide
- Loss of a parent to death or divorce
- Physical or sexual abuse
- Lack of a support network
- Feelings of social isolation
What to do If you are feeling Suicidal?
Step #1: Promise not to do anything right now
Even though you’re in a lot of pain right now, give yourself some distance between thoughts and action. Make a promise to yourself: “I will wait 24 hours and won’t do anything drastic during that time.” Or wait a week.
Step #2: Avoid drugs and alcohol
Suicidal thoughts can become even more vital if you have taken drugs or alcohol. It is essential not to use non-prescription drugs or alcohol when you feel hopeless or think about suicide.
Step #3: Make your home safe
Remove things you could use to hurt yourself, such as pills, knives, razors, or firearms. If you are unable to do so, go to a place where you can feel safe.
Step #4: Don’t keep these suicidal feelings to yourself
Many of us have found that the first step to coping with suicidal thoughts and feelings is to share them with someone we trust.
Step #5: Take hope – people DO get through this
Even people who feel as badly as you are feeling now manage to survive these feelings. Take hope in this
Source: Help Guide
How to Help a Suicidal Person
- Always take suicidal comments very seriously. When a person says that they are thinking about suicide, you must always take the words seriously. Assuming that the person is only seeking attention is a severe and potentially disastrous error. Get help immediately.
- Follow the information that is on the home page of Suicide.org. Feel free to view the home page of this site and to use it to help you. Dealing with a person who is suicidal is not easy, so following what is on the home page of Suicide.org can help you. And always remember that you need to call 15 or your local emergency number, Pakistan 24/7 Mental Health Helpline – UMANG (92) 0311 7786264, immediately for anyone who is at high risk for suicide. Do not hesitate.
- Try not to act shocked. The person is already highly distressed, and if you are appalled by what is said, the person will become more distressed. Stay calm, and matter-of-factly talk with him or her, but get help immediately. If the person is at high risk for suicide, call 15 or Pakistan 24/7 Mental Health Helpline – UMANG (92) 0311 7786264 directly.
- Do not handle the situation by yourself. A suicidal person needs immediate assistance from qualified mental health professionals.
- Again, call (92) 0311 7786264, or 15. And do not allow untrained individuals to act as the only counsellors to the individual.
While you are waiting for help to arrive (or if there is no emergency):
- Listen attentively to everything that the person has to say. Let the person talk as much as he or she wants to. Listen closely to be as supportive as possible about what is causing the suicidal feelings.
- Comfort the person with words of encouragement. Use common sense to offer terms of support. Remember that intense emotional pain can be overwhelming, so be as gentle and caring as possible. There is no script to use in situations like these because each person and each case is different. Listen carefully, and offer encouraging words when appropriate.
- Let the person know that you are deeply concerned. Tell the person that you are concerned, and show them that you are concerned. A suicidal person is highly vulnerable and needs to feel that concern.
- If the person is at a high risk of suicide, do not leave him or her alone. Do not leave a critically suicidal person alone for even a second. Only after you get professional help for the person can you consider leaving him or her.
Talk openly about suicide.
- Ask the person, “Are you feeling so bad that you are thinking about suicide?”
- If the answer is yes, ask, “Have, you thought about how you would do it?”
- If the answer is yes, ask, “Do you have what you need to do it?”
- If the answer is yes, ask, “Have you thought about when you would do it?”
There are many ways through which educators and parent can prevent suicidal thoughts among teens. However, the most workable method is to talk to your child. Study shows that most teens think about suicide when they already decided that nobody would understand their feelings or problems they are having. And in that ‘Nobody’ their loved ones come at the top of the list. Have a routine conversation with your child, ask them about their daily activities, let them have confided to you whatever puzzling their minds.
Teenagers need to familiarise themselves with the reality of life, and the truth is bitter than what we aim or expect from our lives. The only solution to convert our life’s bitterness into sweetness is to face the problems instead to run away from them. Change is good. Without it, life can get a little mundane. So, try something new! Embrace challenges! I once again reiterate that dialogue from my favourite cartoon movie The Lion King’:
“The past can hurt. But the way I see it, you can either run from it or learn from it.”
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