Among the vampires, dragons and dystopian futuristic societies that dominate young adult reading lists, a debut novel about teenage suicide had become a stealthy hit a few years ago with surprising staying power. ‘Thirteen Reasons Why’ was so well liked that media giant Netflix released the series adaptation this year which became the brunt of jokes and memes around the internet and now I ask – Is suicide a joke-worthy occurrence?
Now, I agree the problem with the show is that it makes it seem as if there are no effective alternatives to suicide. It sends the message that adults are useless, peers are cruel and the only solution is to die. It has its faults but it in no circumstances is deserving of the jokes that not only put down cyber-bullying as a normal subject but also makes teenagers feel that their depression is laughing matter.
Every 90 minutes a teenager tries to take their life in India. Many of these attempts are half-hearted cries for attention, help, and love. But every six hours, one succeeds. More adolescents die of suicide than AIDS, cancer, heart disease, obesity, birth defects and lung disease. In 2006-07 5,857 students took their own life, which works out to a stunning 16 suicides a day, says the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB).
Why are teens forced to take such a grave step?
Is our culture of relentless achievement and success driving our young people to suicide? You would certainly think so, given the prevailing narrative in the media about the recent spate of suicides on college campuses: one high-achieving student after another succumbing to the toxic social pressure for perfection.
It’s a plausible but incomplete explanation. No doubt the intense social pressure on young people, especially girls and young women, is daunting, but stress is only part of the story: We should also focus on adolescent mental illness and its treatment.
Most people who commit suicide have a diagnosable and potentially treatable mental illness like depression, or alcohol or other drug abuse problems, often in combination. Suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people and has been rising. The unidentified killer in this story is the untreated psychiatric illness.
We all know by now that bullying and cyber-bullying are huge risk factors for teen suicide. Bullying has become a major problem and needs to be taken more seriously by school boards. Parents should not have to worry about whether or not their children are safe at school. Schools are meant to be a comfortable learning environment for every child, but unfortunately, this is not the case anymore.
Punishment needs to be in order in these situations because bullying has led to thousands of deaths. There should be laws against bullying in general because the “no bullying” rules in public schools are not enough. We need to educate adults who interact with youth on a daily basis, such as teachers, on the lifelong effects of bullying. They need to understand the importance of anti-bullying so they learn to watch over their students better. They also need to be informed on how to recognize warning signs for suicide and how to respond appropriately. This should allow these adults to provide a link between a young person and a mental health professional.
We all know that suicide is a person’s choice, but that does not mean we should leave this issue alone. Teen suicide is a growing concern in this generation because it is easily becoming a major threat in every teenager’s life. Suicide is a complicated issue to prevent because it deals with a person’s feelings and emotions. These things cannot just be erased or shut off. This may be a tough problem to fix; however, it is not impossible.
It is an extremely delicate subject in every household in the India and maybe even worldwide. Parents tend to think that their kids will never be in a suicidal situation. They choose to believe that suicide just does not exist where they live. This is why so many depressed teenagers go unnoticed and therefore never receive the treatment they desperately need.
Suicide is preventable; however, it will not be easy. Adults need to be educated on this issue so that they can provide help in their communities. Parents should be active in their child’s life in and outside the classroom. They should be able to talk with their children and be aware of any signs of distress. In conclusion, the rise in teen suicides can be stopped as long as adults and fellow students are not afraid to step up and reach out to those who need it.