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Vital answers about teen depression and suicide

The transition from childhood to adulthood is often challenging and tumultuous, and it is during this period that some teenagers and young adults first experience depression and suicidal thoughts. Sadly, depression is a much more widespread problem than most people think.

Not every young adult will suffer from depression or contemplating suicide, of course, but it’s important for parents to pay attention to their child’s behaviour as he or she gets older and to allow for open and honest communication. Parents can be better prepared to support a child who may be depressed or suicidal by educating themselves about these mental health issues.

Here are just a few of the questions that parents of young adults often have about depression and suicide, accompanied by answers from the mental health treatment centre, Yellowbrick.

Question: How do I know if my child is depressed?

Answer: It’s hard to say if a young adult is depressed or simply “going through a moody phase”.  There are no reliable indicators of an impending suicide attempt, but there are some common signs that could mean someone is experiencing depression. These might include a loss of interest in activities that your child once enjoyed, isolation from friends and family, changes in sleeping patterns (either lack of sleep or excessive sleep), changes in appetite or eating patterns, low energy levels, or sudden mood swings. Some young adults may also attempt to use drugs and alcohol to cope with depression. Substance abuse is not necessarily an indicator of suicidal thoughts, but it does increase the risk of a depressed individual attempting suicide.

Question: What might my child be going through after a suicide attempt?

Answer: It is not uncommon for young adults to experience feelings of shame and guilt after a failed suicide attempt. These feelings may cause them to withdraw from their loved ones further, increasing their actual or perceived social isolation.

Let them know that they can talk to you without fear of being judged.

Unfortunately, young adults who have attempted suicide once have a higher risk for another attempt, as the first attempt may have a gateway effect on the risk-reward center of the brain.

Question: How can I best support my child after a suicide attempt?

Answer: Because a young adult who has attempted suicide may be experiencing shame, one of the most valuable things you can do as a parent is to demonstrate your unconditional acceptance of your child. Offer to support your child in whatever way he or she needs at this time, and talk to your child about seeing a therapist or counsellor. Empathize with your child even if they are experiencing frustration and anger.  Let them know that they can talk to you without fear of being judged.

Parents and educators, STOP pushing our students over the edge!

This is not just to tell you why you need to think about what is killing the future of our nation, this is a plea. I, a 21-year-old university student, deal with personal humiliation every other week and survive. However, I have finally found a pill too hard to swallow.

The tragedies

Just recently, we heard about the 10th-grade students of one of the most prominent schools in the capital commit suicide inside the school premises. A few days later, another news report popped up on my Facebook feed about a fifteen-year-old committing suicide. I thought (I hoped) that someone was resharing an old article in the light of recent incidents. However, after spending another minute or two on social media, my worst suspicions were confirmed about the loss of another young life. Not even two weeks had passed since a student at BRAC University took his life. How many more student deaths and how often does it need to occur for our society and our guardians to take accountability. When will they realize that they are doing something wrong?

Parents and Educators, STOP.
Artwork by Mehedi Haque Cartoons

The lack of diligence in previous incidents

A couple of months ago, I happened to tutor one of the classmates of the deceased student from Rajuk Uttara Model School and College. I found out that students were not even allowed to leave the class at the time of the unfortunate event. Their classes weren’t halted for even a period and they were forced to continue activities as if nothing had happened. Later, the school authorities stated that the student had “accidentally” slipped from the staircases and died. This was a farcical attempt to invalidate the death of a child.

Who can be held accountable?

The child from Viqarunnisa Noon School and College was reportedly expelled from her school due to allegations of cheating in her final exam. This allegation has not been proved. Students have claimed that she was found to be in possession of the cell phone, which is against the rules of the school. Even if you go by the allegation that she was indeed carrying the phone to cheat on her test, would that justify her teachers’ and Principal’s course of action?

In this case, attempts were not made to wait for proof, the school arrived at the conclusion that she cheated. As a consequence, her parent was called to the school and insulted in front of her. Our education system encourages educators to take harsh actions. In this case, the actions were so harsh that a mere 15-year-old child felt compelled to end their life.

No one is condoning cheating by speaking up about this accident. Students are expressing outrage and concern over the fact that our system has placed the power of molding young and vulnerable minds in the hands of people who have displayed incompetence as educators and parents. They have acted without due diligence and treated young lives with callousness.

Parents and Educators, STOP.

Take responsibility

Corporal punishment might have decreased in schools. However, the crippling lack of absolution from the society and family members if anyone flies off the rails, can be worse. Many families make their children think that their lives are only of worth if they do well in school.

We are left to consider the extent of the pressure the 10th grader felt to think suicide was the solution. Are we part of a system that places so much pressure on children? Do we make childish transgressions warrant a life of shame and ridicule? Can this pressure, aggravated with the lack of awareness and services about mental health, create an environment that is unbearable for young ones?

I am disappointed at those displaying “holier than thou” morality and self-righteousness. We have been nothing but accomplices to a system that has been defended too often, for too long.