Suicide among adolescents can be prevented

Through life skills training, suicides among adolescents can be prevented

Dr Vranda M N

Every other day, we read in newspapers or hear on television news, disheartening stories of suicides by teenagers. As psychiatrists, we also get to hear about some cases like these:

Mahesh, a 16-year-old boy studying in Class 10, was in love with a girl, but she rejected him and befriended someone else. In a fit of emotion, Mahesh left a note to his parents and ended his life.

In another case, 15-year-old Janavi’s friend Nisha asked her to check the Class 10 final exam results. Janavi checked her results on the mobile phone, and became terribly upset because she had failed in one subject - English. Without telling her parents or even waiting to confirm the results at school, Janavi ended by life.

In the case of 18-year-old Pragna, it was due to a family problem. Pragna's parents would often quarrel, her father would come home drunk and beat her mother. Her parents’ marital discord affected Pragna's emotional wellbeing. She could neither focus on her studies nor take up other activities which could have helped her divert her attention from these issues. But, instead of discussing her problems or seeking help, Pragna ended her life.

Adolescents and their emotional state

Adolescents are full of energy and intense emotions, and have selective ways (or sometimes irrational ways) of thinking and handling issues, when compared to adults. Due to this reason, when adversity strikes in the form of failure, disappointment, stress, or any other problem, they are unable to cope or handle such situations. Instead of seeking help, they may resort to other destructive acts like substance abuse or suicide to escape from these difficulties.

Adolescents attempt suicide impulsively without thinking about the consequences of their actions. They also wrongly presume that seeking help during difficult times is a sign of weakness. But adolescents need to realize that timely help and counsel from family or friends during crisis situations and adequate emotional support can help them overcome their problems.

Facts and statistics

Today, suicide is one of the major causes of death among adolescents worldwide. Evidence suggests that the number of adolescents dying by suicide has drastically increased over the years. It is also observed that suicide occurs due to multiple factors, including individual, family, school and psychosocial factors. Globally, an estimated 71,000 adolescents die by suicide annually.

According to the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) data, in India, nearly 34 persons out of 100 who ended their own lives were aged between 15 and 29 years. The total number of suicides in the age group of 15-29 years increased from 38,910 in 2001 to 46,635 in 2012, demonstrating a drastic increase of 19.9 percent.

Life skills training

Most suicides among adolescents are preventable. Empowering adolescents with coping skills can greatly enable them to control their emotions, deal with frustrations, and handle life's situations rationally. Life skills training equips adolescents with skills in time management, effective communication, interpersonal relationship, coping, stress management, problem solving, and decision making. This training can certainly help prevent suicide, enhance resilience and promote mental health and wellbeing among adolescents.

Dr Vranda M N is an assistant professor of psychiatric social work at NIMHANS

White Swan Foundation