In an exclusive interaction on World Suicide Prevention Day, Ms. Devangi Dalal, an Indian trained audiologist and speech therapist, Author, and co-founder of the JOSH Foundation shared her insights on suicide risks in teens.
Which teens are at risk for suicide?
Today the major difficulty teens are facing is feeling insecure because, many of the families are facing disputes, broken relationships are there, losing cultural values, the difference of opinions between parents and children, peer pressure of teens as well as parents. Nowadays we are running in a rat race, we are busy competing with each other. We don’t feel like losing. We start comparing ourselves and that’s where teens are also going also today the social media has become so close, people come to know what they’re doing through Facebook, Instagram etc. If teens are not able to do that then they go into depression. Sometimes they are eating outside with their friends’ junk food, not having healthy food, also doesn’t keep their mental and physical health strong and balanced. So these are the teenagers who are at risk of suicide.
What factors contribute to youth suicide? and What is suicidal behaviour disorder?
The first factor is mental stability and family security is not there, family disputes are going on, financial crises are there, parents pressure, adolescence age, lots of physical and mental hazards are happening in the body which you are not aware of and even not guided for the same and that’s where you find it difficult to understand what is right or wrong. Also, they are not having good nutritious food and there is nobody to guide them. Globally a lot of experiments are happening and post that brands are coming up with different products. Through media, they come to know about different brands and if they are not able to fulfill that then also they feel incomplete. They feel they are not getting things that they want and can’t show off. So these are all factors that are adding to the factor of youth suicide. Many a time suicidal feeling, behaviors are unnoticed. Sometimes just unpredictable people commit suicide. They are the people who always feel insecure within themselves, they don’t discuss things with people so fast, the loneliness which hurts them, they can’t express their feelings because they’re too intelligent. They feel that if they share it with others it will not be good on their part. What people will think about them. So I feel the most intelligent people get frustrated faster. I think somewhere the intelligent people also have to know that they have to work in the direction where their intelligence is utilised in the right manner and not into frustration. Other suicidal behaviour is they always think negatively and they always feel incomplete. The general observation states that they don’t feel satisfied with whatever they have.
What are the warning signs of adolescent suicidal behavior? Behaviour changes to watch for?
Today’s youngsters specifically are following the western world where everything is easily available that includes education, facilities of life, sex education, physical and mental growth of an individual. So at that moment, those adolescences are not given enough warmth, friendship thinking, the security from their parents and having peer pressure to compete with the world and not able to fulfill what they have in life, that’s where adolescence warning signs are seen. Though they’re capable of doing things but they are not able to do it. So that’s where parents have to pay attention that why a particular child though being intelligent is not able to fulfill this. I’ll just tell a recent adolescent behaviour which I came across. So the person was very intelligent and just decided not to study much and not to concentrate on studies further. When I interacted with parents and child I came to know that the child always used to feel why my parents are insisting that I should only study, why are they always behind me and telling me to do this and that, don’t eat this and that. I am intelligent enough to know what is my requirement and if I want to study well, I will study well. They just don’t have to keep on reminding me. The boy wasn’t able to fulfill parents need. He had a mild Stammering behaviour which converted into severe stammering. Today when I spoke to the child I felt like it’s more of the parents’ behaviour that was affecting the child’s growth.
How can we prevent this?
First of all, I feel that every individual is different and they have different potential. I believe every child born on this earth learns 20% from education and 80% from their parents. For every parent, if they really want to look after their children first they will have to enjoy their parenthood. They need to stop comparing them with other parents. Because what happens when you start thinking in a competitive environment and considering the factors like what they will do and what not, in all this they start losing the best moments with their child. The joy that a parent gets while playing with a child or roaming around with them creates a very special bond and also brings them closer. This compassion and passion of being with the child itself bring too much warmth to the child. I remember reading one of the psychology studies that the first warmth that a child receives is from the first breastfeeding. Throughout the process of breastfeeding the amount of comfort and warmth, the child gets, remains with them all their life. So I think as a parent making them feel secure should be our utmost priority. Making them realise that whatever you do, whatever situation comes, whatever challenges come your parents are with you, this security and a sense of belonging is a must. When they are young or at teenage you be like a confident parent, when they are in early adulthood you become like a confident friend and when they become mature adults and start earning you become their confident guide.
They will require your guidance for taking decisions, maintaining relationships like we all need at some stage of our life. So as a family it’s important that on a timely basis we guide, communicate, give warmth and make each other feel secure. I feel the moment you make these things your regular practice then there will be fewer suicide cases we will be hearing of. Another thing that I have noticed is today’s children who have a good education are looking for making good money but fast and many of them are doing it successfully too. But money earned with honesty and good hard work will bring peace in their life. We as parents should be role models for our children. We need to teach them honesty, life principles, goodwill, what’s happening around the world, the importance of cultural values, spiritual strength, have faith in God, and most importantly about good karma.
Make them understand if they have good karma it revolves around and in return, they will also receive it in good form only. As parents whatever we try to teach them we need to make sure that we also practice in front of them. Don’t unnecessarily put them under too much pressure, look at how much they can do, what is their potential, and accordingly guide them. Instead of just working on their educational development, work on the development of their inter and intrapersonal skills too, so they feel confident and always think positive in life. As parents only we can help in reducing suicidal cases and removing such thoughts from the child’s mind too.