Let’s save our young

Presentation1

I woke up to find this cover story on the Mid-day.

Blackmail on Facebook drives Mumbai teenager to suicide – See more at: http://www.mid-day.com/articles/blackmail-on-facebook-makes-mumbai-teenager-kill-himself/16050192#sthash.wpDtbHTV.dpuf

Many would not bother about this incident because it has not  happened in their immediate environment. This is usually a reason for  lack of empathy for any victim. There are reports of suicide, rape,  molestation, murder every day in the papers and we have become immune to all this. Immune till something completely shattering comes to the forefront. And this story will go unnoticed by many because it is about a boy from a very poor home, one of the many who go missing without causing much furore.

Let us look at some statistics first, morbid but necessary.(Source: Wikipedia and various media articles)

  1. About 800,000 people commit suicide every year – global statistics (till 2010).
  2. Of these 135,000 (17%) are residents of India, a nation with 17.5% of the world’s population (till 2010).
  3. Between 1987 to 2007, the suicide rate in India increased from 7.9 to 10.3 per 100,000,with higher suicide rates in southern and eastern states of India.
  4. The male to female suicide ratio has been about 2:1.
  5. Estimates for number of suicides in India vary. E.g. one study projected 187,000 suicides in India in 2010, while official data by the Government of India claims 134,600 suicides in 2010.
  6. The World Health Organisation statistics say that one person commits suicide every 40 seconds, globally.
  7. WHO also listed India as one of the countries with the highest suicide rates at 21.1 per 100,000 people in 2012.
  8. Attempting suicide used to be a criminal offense in India till 2014.

I too have read and ignored many reports of teen and youth suicide over the years. But it is time we all sit up and take notice because being the world leader in suicide is not really a great title to bear.

Suicide is usually a result of extreme emotions, says Dr. Kanan Khatau Chikhal, a renowned psychologist and counsellor. These emotions can be of various kinds, depression being one of the better known. But if a person does not have a history of depression, the other emotions resulting in suicide would be extreme guilt, extreme shock, extreme shame, extreme grief and an overwhelming fear of getting caught and then shamed.

18 year old Abhishek Rasam was a victim of the last emotion. The police now feel that he could be the victim of a gang which lures young boys on Facebook posing as girls, and then extorts money by threatening to file an FIR against them for sending incriminating text messages and photographs. This poor boy made friends with some unknown ‘girl’ on FB in the first week of Feb, got carried away and was then threatened and then blackmailed by someone who claimed to be the girl’s brother. Being too poor to cough up the money demanded, he chose to end his life, ironically on Valentine’s Day.

Abhishek is one of the many young people who have chosen to end their lives and not fight. His name will be lost in the next few days and become just another number added to the overwhelming suicide statistic of our nation. I too will forget him. But let us look closer to home. Our kids use Facebook and various other forms of social media and instant messaging extensively. As a parent, it is imperative to keep counselling them about the pitfalls of making friends with completely unknown people and also about exchanging private information/photographs with anyone. This is a very tricky and touchy situation when you deal with teens who want to feel ‘grown up’ and are often resentful of parental intervention or sometimes even guidance which must construe as overbearing.

If children do not feel comfortable sharing with the parents, there has to be a provision made for them to confide in another responsible adult, within or outside the family. Various organizations like AASRA (http://www.aasra.info/), Connecting India (http://connectingindia.org/) and more provide help and services to prevent suicide among teens and youth. But these organizations can only help if we make their information available to our children. Ego and family pride often gets in the way, because parents feel they are the best/only people to help their children. But unfortunately, this logic does not hold good in many cases.

While the social organizations do a lot of good, the responsibility would also belong to the parents and immediate family/caregivers. It is up to us to make children feel confident enough to confide in us should they face any situation that is beyond their control. A child used to strong punitive measures within the family would be too scared to discuss these issues, be it examination stress, poor marks, trouble in school, a failed love affair and of course social media related threats.

India is poised to become the world’s youngest country by 2020. Let us preserve our young. Let us try and be their friends instead of just adults who reprimand. Let us really ‘be there’ for them and with them and not let them try and fend for themselves in the murky jungle out there, till the time they really become capable of doing so.