OF COURSE IT IS WORTH LIVING! (How to prevent teenage suicide)
Ricky, 14 years old, presented an image of maturity and independence. However, he could not stand the pressure of the circumstances and ended up taking his own life.
Everything began when he joined his friends playing on the slot machines. At first it was fun. However, he did not realize that he began to fall into a habit which is difficult to control.
Very soon, he began to steal money from his parents. At school things were not going well; at home, it was argument after argument.
One day, after a serious argument with his mother who reproached him for having taken money from her purse, Ricky left home slamming the door behind him. A few hours later he hanged himself in a ruined house on the outskirts of the town.
It is impossible to know what he was thinking before he died. Unfortunately, Ricky did not live to tell it; but other adolescents have tried, unsuccessfully, to commit suicide. These are some of the ideas in their heads: I’m not worth anything. I’m better dead than alive». «At home no one understands me, my friends don’t either…» l’ll never be able to pass…» «The teachers hate me». «I hate myself… I don’t want to live». «When they see me dead, then they will feel bad».
Suicide among school children and adolescents is increasing. During the 1950s, there were 2-3 cases of suicide in every 100,000 adolescents; now the number is around 15.
In France, for example, the teenage suicide rate has tripled over the past 30 years and 45,000 young people attempt it every year. In the ages between 25 and 35 years, suicide is the first cause of death. In Spain, between 1985 and 1994 the rate has gone from 386 to 485 teenage suicides per year. The period between 20 and 29 years of age is the second most affected. India teen suicide rates are also too high. It’s been widely reported that suicide among the young is highest in the five southern states. WHO statistics and studies covering global patterns of youth suicides rank India amongst the Top 3, along with the US and Australia. The ‘young’ are defined as aged 15 to 29. We need to wake up.
Suicide is related to depression. Half of the suicidal patients suffer depression. This is the immediate cause which explains the great number of suicide cases.
Suicide attempts do not appear suddenly. Suicide follows progressive levels until the moment it is committed. These are the guidelines:
1. Ideas and feelings of suicide.
2. Suicidal urges.
3. Suicide attempts.
4. Consummated suicide.
It Can Be Avoided
Many suicides are avoidable. Eighty percent of those who commit suicide have attempted it before. Also, in almost all cases previous signs have been shown. These are the most common:
– Interest in the subject of death in art or in music.
– Persistent sadness and feeling of hopelessness.
– Previous attempts or impulses to take their life.
– Lack of interest in studies and deficient school grades.
– Feelings of guilt or failure.
– Extreme variations in diet or sleeping habits and laziness in personal care.
– Significant changes in behavior.
– Isolation from family and friends.
– Consumption of alcohol or other drugs.
How to Prevent It
– Listen carefully. Prepare the atmosphere to communicate with your adolescent children. Try to understand not only their words, but also their feelings and wishes. Observe the expression on their faces. Seriously consider expressions such as «I can’t go on … » «There’s no solution, it is impossible … »
– Take any indications of possible suicide seriously. Consider the list of signs mentioned. When teenagers talk about suicide, take into account that they are probably not joking.
– Try to understand their experience. Young people who contemplate the perspective of suicide are extremely unhappy. They are desperate; they see themselves as defenseless and they hate themselves. In their eyes, the future has no meaning and there is no reason to live.
– Help them find their positive attributes. A feeling almost always present is self-denigration. Talk to the teenager about the positive value his life could have over others and of his valuable characteristics.
– Stay close. Always be available. Loneliness is the greatest enemy of adolescents in danger of suicide. Keep in continuous contact with them.
– Talk directly about suicide. Do not be afraid to talk about suicide: thoughts, urges and attempts. Suggest valid solutions instead of desperation and death.
– Remove objects which could help with the suicide attempt. Firearms, poisonous chemical products, ropes, medication, etc. must be kept out of the adolescent’s reach.
– Do not give sermons. People who are contemplating the possibility of suicide do not need more guilt. Therefore, do not make the mistake of saying: “You shouldn’t …’’ “Don’t even think about it,’’ or “This is sin.’’
– Look for professional help. At the slightest sign that the situation is getting out of control or is becoming dangerous, visit the psychiatrist or a self-help group.
– Include the supernatural dimension. The believer can find help in the certainty that God is ready to alleviate human pain. Private prayer or praying with your son or daughter can provide excellent results.
-By Dr. Julian Melgosa