Suicide is a fatal self-injurious act with some evidence pointing out to the intent to die. More than 800,000 people die due to suicide each year around the globe. The rates of suicide and suicide-related behaviours increases with age and gender. While suicide rates have been noted to be higher among boys than girls, girls have higher rates of suicidal ideation and attempted suicide. Although any firm causes of the increase in suicide rates among adolescents and young adults are uncertain at the moment, public health experts have no idea why the suicide rate for young adults have been increasing drastically. Ursula Whiteside, a researcher with the University of Washington, talked about this in the Washington Post. “The truth is anyone who says they definitely know what is causing it doesn’t know what they’re talking about,” “It’s a complex problem with no easy answers so far.” Adolescents and young adults at this age start to think and feel differently. They feel confused about being stuck in a weird mid-position where they are neither kids nor fully grown adults. They feel isolated and uncomfortable. Unfortunately, some may at one point or another believe suicide to be a permanent answer to problems that can be talked about and solved with the right guidance. Self-doubts, confusion and pressures to succeed or conform can come at a very high price for adolescents. Suicides among young people are a serious problem and are the world’s second-largest leading cause for deaths in adolescents aged 15-to-24 years. The majority of children and adolescents who attempt suicide have a mental health disorder that needs attention. Among younger children, suicide attempts are often impulsive. They associate themselves with feelings of confusion, sadness, anger, problems with attention and hyperactivity, feelings of stress, self-doubt, the pressure to succeed, financial uncertainty, disappointment, and loss.
There are several symptoms or warning signs that indicate the gravity of the situation-
• Expressions of helplessness.
• Hopelessness and loss of faith.
• Extreme shame or guilt.
• A dramatic change in personality or appearance.
• Irrational or bizarre behaviour.
• Changed eating patterns.
• Irregular sleeping habits.
• Lack of enthusiasm.
• A downfall in school or work performance.
• Lack of interest in things previously important.
• Writing, speaking or joking about suicide.
• Giving away possessions.
• Increasing alcohol and drug use.
• Withdrawing from friends, family or society.
Factors involved: The factors that contribute to suicide are the effective variables that increase the likelihood of the tragedy occurring. A huge number of causes can devote or build-up to the end consequence of suicide:
• Uncontrollable impulses.
• Suicide attempts in family history.
• An already existing suicide plan.
• Aggressive or disruptive behaviour.
• Exposure to violence like domestic violence.
• Access to firearms like a gun at home.
• Acute loss or rejection.
• Changes in their families.
• Work stress.
• Problems in school.
• Career issues.
• Physical or sexual abuse.
• Emotional neglect.
• Alcoholism at home.
• Substance abuse.
• Past suicide attempts.
• Exposure to suicidal behaviour like through fiction stories.
Youth who feel suicidal are not likely to seek help directly; however, parents, school personnel, and peers can recognize the warning signs and take immediate action to keep the youth safe. When a youth gives signs that they may be considering suicide, the following actions should be taken:
• Remain calm.
• Ask the youth directly if he or she is feeling any stress.
• Focus on your concern for their well-being and avoid being accusatory.
• Reassure them that there is help and they will not feel like this forever.
• Do not judge.
• Provide constant supervision. Do not leave the youth alone.
• Remove means for self-harm.
• Get help: No one should ever agree to keep a youth’s suicidal thoughts a secret and instead should tell an appropriate caregiving adult, such as a parent, teacher, or school psychologist. Parents should seek help from school or community mental health resources as soon as possible. School staff should take the student to a school-employed mental health professional or administrator.
The Role of the School in Suicide Prevention: Children and adolescents spend a substantial part of their day in school under the supervision of school personnel. Effective suicide and violence prevention is integrated with supportive mental health services, engages the entire school community, and is imbedded in a positive school climate through student behavioral expectations and a caring and trusting student/adult relationship. Therefore, it is crucial for all school staff members to be familiar with, and watchful for, risk factors and warning signs of suicidal behavior. The entire school staff should work to create an environment where students feel safe sharing such information. School psychologists and other crisis response team personnel, including the school counselor and school administrator, are trained to intervene when a student is identified at risk for suicide. These individuals conduct suicide risk assessment, warn/inform parents, provide recommendations and referrals to community services, and often provide follow up counseling and support at school.
Parental Notification and Participation: Even if a youth is judged to be at low risk for suicidal behaviour, schools may ask parents to sign a documentation form to indicate that relevant information has been provided. Parental notifications must be documented. Additionally, parents are crucial members of a suicide risk assessment as they often have information critical to making an appropriate assessment of risk, including mental health history, family dynamics, recent traumatic events, and previous suicidal behaviours. After a school notifies a parent of their child’s risk for suicide and provides referral information, the responsibility falls upon the parent to seek mental health assistance for their child.
( The author is a teacher at Govt High School Brakpora Anantnag. Views are his own)