Why Suicide Is Emerging As A Trend Among Children?
It is really shocking that majority of suicides reported nowadays are committed by children. Usually, people believe that child suicide rate is comparatively negligible. One reason for such a misconception is that people believe children are not mature enough to commit suicide (CSP, 2000).But recent statistics prove that this is not the fact. Nowadays, children are being exposed to more mental shocks and it is leading to increased suicidal ideation among them. Thus, it is absolutely the need of the hour to understand the precipitants behind suicide among children and the ways to overcome it.
Sousa et al. (2017) conducted a literature review of the significant factors correlated with suicide in children below 14 years. The major reasons identified were- neurobiological features, issues associated with school such as bullying, social and mental factors including family conflicts and impulsivity. Besides these factors, several mental disorders are also potential factors of suicide. Half of the children who commit suicide suffer from ADHD, one-third of them suffer from ASPD, depression, and alcohol problems though not significantly (Sousa et al., 2017). These findings are supported by other studies as well. The Center for Suicide Prevention published a children and suicide resource toolkit in which they identified that major risk factors associated with suicide in children as adverse school experiences like bullying, mental disorders like depression, bipolar disorder, ADHD, and anxiety disorders as well as drug or alcohol abuse. The additional factors found were experiences of child abuse, physical ailments, and early familial pressures like parental divorce, family history of suicide or psychological ailments, or even relocation. Availability of means of suicide and unsuccessful suicide attempts in past will also be precipitating factors for suicidal ideations.
Family is the primary contact of children. Thus the family atmosphere matters a lot in the mental health of children. It has been identified that child-parent conflict is the most significant factor of suicide among children (Soole, Kolves, and De Leo, 2014). Thus it is important to adopt measures that reduce the communication gap between children and parents. Parents have to be friendly with children, rather than being the figures of authority. When the child feels that they can share any of their concerns with parents without being judged, chances are low that they hide their emotions. The Center for Suicide Prevention suggests that solid family cohesion and parental support is inevitable for children to combat with their worries. It is often difficult to understand whether a child is going through depression or stress. They may not always explicitly manifest their emotions. Thus it requires stringent care from the side of parents to ensure that the child is not going through depression or suicidal thoughts.
After parents and family, a child spends most of their time in school. We often focus on the academic excellence and cognitive development of children that we ignore their emotional demands. Counseling and child protection measures have to be made mandatory in schools where a platform is created for children to talk openly about their worries. Also it has to be ensured that the interpersonal connections between students are healthy and constructive. As research evidence shows, bullying and neglect by friends could be a major factor for loneliness and depression among children. Furthermore peer pressure and unhealthy friendships can often lead children to emotional slavery and in the worst condition, even to drug and alcohol abuse. Such factors could be potential enough to create disequilibrium in emotional state of children which makes them vulnerable to mental shocks and lack of emotional control. Thus schools have to ensure that no child becomes a victim for such destructive friendships. Moreover schools have to encourage students to engage in extracurricular activities that can boost their self-esteem and well-being.
Advancing technology and increased internet use is another contributing factor to suicide among children. The National Confidential Inquiry into Suicide and Homicide by People with Mental Illness (NCISH, 2017) reported that 26% of suicide among children less than 20 years was identified to be related to internet use. Marchant et al., (2017) also identified a correlation between usage of internet and self-harm or suicidal ideations. Those who suffer from internet addiction and exposure to websites that include self-harm or suicidal thoughts are additional factors involved. A significant association between video game addiction and suicidal ideation is also found among children, especially among boys (Koga and Kawashima, 2019).
Every year, suicide rates are increasing in our country. Whatever is the legal issue related with these cases, there's always a psychological risk associated with it. Today, the children are quite high on intelligence and maturity. It is good to have such brilliant brains growing up. But recent incidents show that this increasing intelligence is somewhere correlated with increasing suicide among children. Does that mean children are compromising on their emotional intelligence while sharpening their cognitive skills? While evolving to be a competent individual, are they getting intolerant of downfalls? While polishing hard skills, are they ignoring development of coping and problem-solving skills? Are we living in a generation where people can launch satellites to Mars or talk with chat bots but can't manage their emotions, their mental health, or their agility? So, while working day and night chasing your goals, never forget to spend some time for your children and to read their hidden emotions. As Arnold and Gemma (1994) rightly said, the loss of a child is the loss of future, hopes, dreams, strength, and perfection. Our children have miles to go. So hold their hands firmly and guide them to the world of hope.