Can Children Be Influenced To Commit Suicide?

In India, about 46,000 suicides occurred each in 15–29 and 30–44 age groups in 2012 – or about 34% each of all suicides and it was executed through Poisoning (33%), hanging (26%) and self-immolation (9%) primarily (Registrar General of India, Government of India). In 2012, 80% of the suicide victims were literate, higher than the national average literacy rate of 74%.

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Approximately half of India’s 1.2 billion people are under the age of 26, and by 2020 we are forecasted to be the youngest country in the world, with a median age of 29 years. Thus, it is imperative to ensure that our youth are happy and flourishing in a positive environment. However, it is unfortunate that, India has the highest suicide rate in the world among the youth standing at 35.5 per 100,000 people in 2012. 

There are multiple reasons for such a high suicide rate ranging from academic stress, paternal discord, to relationships issues, lack of socio-economic support systems, unemployment, economic resources etc. The modernization has led to changing relationship patterns in form of breakdown of earlier joint systems into nuclear families that are often challenged with resources and child care systems. The progressive youth often face lack of support from traditionalist family in terms of acceptance that youth is becoming financially independent, pre-marital sex, rehabilitation and taking care of elderly. There is a constant clash in values that results in role and expectation confusion. 

Emile Durkheim (1966) described suicide as one of the crudest expressions of social phenomenon in which an individual deliberately ends self. Many factors are responsible for this, few of them are: 

Not being diagnosed with a mental health disorder such as depression or schizophrenia

Previous suicide attempts

Substance abuse

The burden of a financial crisis

The family history of suicide

Poor job security 

Low levels of job satisfaction

History of being abused

Witness to continuous abuse

Being diagnosed with a terminal illness

Being socially discriminated or ostracized

Being exposed to suicidal behavior

In the recent Burari case, it was observed that children in pre-teens too committed suicide. The influence of family and the surrounding environment on children cannot be undermined. Scientific research has documented that children who grow up poor are more likely than other children to drop out of high school. A child’s mental health is affected by the social and psychological environment. Family members are the first set of people with whom a child interacts and learns to establish trusting bonds. Hence, it is easy for a child to believe what the close family members ask a child to do. This leaves an impact on the development and well-being of a child at the individual, societal and national level. 

Children and adolescents get easily influenced by peers and happenings in society. Often they face tremendous pressure from peers and accept challenges that may be life-threatening. Children often comply with social and religious norms. They observe adults around them who conform to such norms and thus easily get swayed away by following norms. For example, walking a few steps backward when they see a black cat crossing in front of them or believing that breaking glass will bring seven years of bad luck etc. Such superstitious beliefs though are not harmful, but children pick up such beliefs from adults around them who follow the same. As these children grow up as adults they continue to follow such norms and the vicious cycle continues. 

National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB) 2015 quoted that every hour one student commits suicide in India. Parents and schools cannot prepare children mentally and psychologically for the many triggers in the world. Hence it is imperative that as a society we work to promote a positive environment. It is vital that organizations and governments receive support to promote mental health education and promote coping skills in youth. Following are some tips to help the person in distress: 

 Tell the person that he is loved and care for. 

 Be an active listener. 

 Show empathy. 

 Realize that feeling suicidal is not nature of a person but a mere state of mind. 

 Seek professional help as suicide is often linked to mental disorders. 

At an individual level, if you find someone talking about suicide excessively then offer help or let a family know. In India, suicide is more of a social and public health objective than a traditional exercise in the mental health sector. Mental health professionals, doctors, and counselors should be reached out to manage suicidal tendencies. Many helpline numbers are available and such facilities should be used effectively to prevent suicide. 

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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