Teen suicide has since some time become a real cause for concern for parents and society at large, especially in Gilgit-Baltistan. The most severely hit area of GB is the Ghizer district, where suicides have claimed dozens of lives, mostly women, till now. Suicide cases have also been reported from other districts, but in comparatively lesser numbers.
There have been some intermittent interventions on behalf of NGOs to curb this behavior, but so far no effort has apparently yielded enough empirical results, reasons of which, in my opinion, are numerous. However, this area needs to be properly addressed so that lives of many innocent young men and women could be saved.
Suicide is a desperate attempt to escape unbearable suffering and the victim is blinded by a sense of alienation, un-belongingness, shattered self-esteem and hopelessness. Yet a victim sees no plausible way to get rid of his perceived purgatory other than death.
If we try to dissect and introspect the mind of a suicide victim they may find themselves incarcerated in a dark room without windows or doors; there is only a small hole which lets in a beam of sunlight. Now that hole acts as a redemption hole for a person and gradually he/she commits suicide, imagining it to be the only way out of his turmoil.
Statistics reveal that around 1 million people commit suicide each year (WHO) and around 10,000 plus people in Pakistan have been reported to end their lives; sadly, majority of these victims being under 30 years of age.
Many of us have already surpassed the adrenaline boosted teenage, which is a transitory phase from childhood towards adulthood. This transition entails intense biological, psychological and social changes for the teens. I vividly remember the first time I tried my father’s razor had screwed up my face because I got rid of my mustaches. Anyhow these stressors affect our teens both positively and negatively and by the end of this phase most teens make it to the other side of the fence however those who don’t have to be watched upon with great precaution.
When children enter this phase of development, they seek their own personal space and belongings and start to develop an identity of their own. They are often seen socializing and making pals or getting sentimental and emotional towards the opposite gender. Due to high adrenaline in their blood (garam khoon) teens tend to tilt towards juvenile delinquency, i.e. risky behavior like bike wheeling, speeding, getting involved in scuffles, drug abuse – cigarettes, hash and others.
Life is indeed a roller coaster ride and vicissitudes do happen and are inevitable yet necessary obstacles of our lives. They may be personal like household issues or financial issues like poverty, debt. Social like a conflict, social pressure etc. So when these binge jumps are experienced by teens there is every possibility that they might be severely affected. There are a variety of factors that have been deemed responsible for imperiling teens, one of the major one being stress and inability of coping with it. Stress may be of any nature from molecular to societal levels. Teens rattle when it comes to dealing with rejection, failure, mawkish breakups and family turmoil.
Parents and guardians need to understand that teens are very vulnerable to suicide as they already are going through a state of psycho-biological crisis. Confused identity, Garam khoon, development of personality and beliefs, sexual changes and other social factors already are wreaking havoc in their lives. Please help them see through this phase with your valuable experience and try more often to put your goggles of empathy.
Suicide does not occur out of the blue, a suicide elicits some warning signals before it goes off so if your child has ever talked about suicide or dying and made even a lame statement do not give him a 1980’s parental reply (ja marja beigarat) “go die scoundrel”. Remember these are not the kids like we used to be (80’s model) nor they are as dheet (stubbornly naughty) as we used to be back then. These are android generation kids and have needs of their own so please treat them according to the times they have been raised into. If your child has a diary please peek in to it sometimes, if you find truck poetry in it that’s OK but if you come across something mentioning hopelessness, not belongingness, death, drug use or low self-esteem raise your security level to a maximum because it is the precise time to nip this issue in the bud.
Teens are emotionally fragile beings, more than 70% teens in some point of their teenage engage in an emotional attachment most probably with a classmate, a neighbor or a school senior. It is not something to be worried about as this crush ghost will evade with time. For parents who have not fallen in love in teenage and married later should know that it is the fundamental moral, legal, ethical and religious right of a woman and a man to choose his/her life partner so please do not slap your child because of this moral “blasphemy” instead advise him/her about ethical, moral parameters of intimacy and use this situation to construct his/her life by assuring them of support if they study well and achieve a status of their own. Furthermore observe your child’s behavior, see if he experiences mood swings, has hostile views or sees himself as a burden or unwanted jazz up a friendly sitting with him/her or go for a walk and in a responsive way heed his/her concerns and talk to him/her. Give your children hope, spirit, courage and responsibility. Tell them how valuable they are and what do they mean to you. Love is the best antidote to every illness, believe me or not.
Do not hesitate to talk about suicide; it is a common misconception that talking about it may encourage someone into committing it. Instead it acts as a vent out vessel for stress and eases their nerves, catharsis as we psychologists say. Be in close proximity to your children and if possible interact with their teachers and pals more often. Teens that have been bullied and abused have a higher rate of suicide all over the world and it does not only put them in an abyss of death, it transforms them into rapists, pedophiles and criminals of many sorts. Counsel your kids to report in case of bullying or sexual harassment/blackmailing enlighten them about online ethics of social media use.
Under any circumstance if you find your child under any stress akin to the stated situations please do not heed to your mothers and grandmothers. They will tell you that your child has been cast a spell or magic upon and that he needs to see a Peer in the adjacent Muhallah. Go straight to a mental health professional and seek his professional advice before it’s too late.
We all eighty model ladies and gentlemen were born to a different world than today, 6am morning cartoons, PTV and Einak Wala Jin was what we treasured the most. We played with marbles, got beaten at home and school equally (with minor affects) and most of all had so much less to worry about. Our generation of today is in a different world from yesterday. Acculturation has decimated our morals and norms. Media has penetrated deep into our lives and overall life has become more materialistic. This creates a real discrepancy between the world we are in and the ideal world we dwell into.
Finally for teens who may be reading this remember; you are precious, wanted and needed. You are our torch bearers of future. Just don’t give up and stay strong, make lemonade of lemons life throws you at and finally by the way don’t watch Bollywood crap movies like Ashiqi ones and twos and Tere naams bla bla, instead please watch quality Hollywood movies like: The fault in our stars, The Revenant, The road within, The Bucketlist, Stephen Hawking and tons of more.
Live long and strong.
The contributor is a clinical psychologist.