Sonia Dogra

Every once in a while, we hear stories of young children losing to life. While we do feel sad about it, If Only We Knew what to do about it…

Vrinda was all of seventeen. She had put in a year of hard work and was ready to take her Class XII Board Examination. For a long time, she had been harbouring dreams of getting through a reputed college in Delhi for her graduation and then moving to the US for higher studies. Her parents, too, were sure that she would succeed. The teachers at school had high expectations as well. But she missed a five-mark question today in the Economics paper and before anyone could fathom what the teenager was up to, she jumped off the seventh floor of her apartment building. A mere five-mark question snowballed into a matter of life and death in less than a few hours.

The case of Vrinda is not an isolated one. Arjun Bhardwaj, a 24-year-old management student, had jumped out of a 19th-floor hotel room in Mumbai. Arjun had been depressed about failure in exams and had even been repeatedly talking about ending his life on social media.

Student suicides have become common in the past one decade. It is no longer a rare event that takes everyone by surprise. In fact, the news is such an everyday feature that we no longer wince on hearing it. It is rather sad and unnerving. And on a closer look, one can easily make out that the reasons for taking such a drastic step are indeed very trivial. To outline a few- breakups, bullying at school or college, academic pressure, ragging, emotional neglect, stress and even peer pressure. Add to this the big role played by technology. Yes, cyber bullying can be a major reason.

India, surprisingly, has the world’s highest suicide rate for youth aged 15-29 years. What is it, that we are unable to provide to our young generation that drives them to a point of no return? Let us look, closely at a few possible reasons that may cause one to end their own life.

Unfulfilled aspirations and failure: Kota, in Rajasthan is the country’s most sought after education hub that offers commercial coaching centres for aspirants of engineering or medical streams. The coaching centres that guarantee success in professional entrance examinations sometimes set very unrealistic goals. Anxious about failing and not living up to expectations causes many students to end their lives. This, may be, said of other places as well that are extremely competitive and offer no time for rest and recoup.

Bullying: Believe it or not, bullying at school or by friends can sometimes cause enough emotional pressure. This could be in the form of name calling, being teased for looks or poor grades or all. All this lowers a child’s self-esteem and his confidence could be shattered.

Another closely related issue is that of Ragging. Introduced as a means to break the ice between fresher students and seniors, this practice has caused many young boys and girls to take away their lives. Ragging has now been banned by colleges and schools.

Drug Abuse: Teenage is often seen as an age of experiment. Everyday one is introduced to new ways of life. Media and movies open a whole new world. Friends become an important part of life and peer pressure is almost, always unavoidable. The young mind is very impressionable. Under such circumstances many youngsters fall into the trap of drugs and alcohol. What starts off as an experiment may turn into addiction and can cause severe physical, emotional and mental problems that may compel one to take extreme steps.

Heartbreak: Love and heartbreaks are common in this age. Lack of the right kind of counselling to deal with matters of the heart may lead to serious repercussions. Yes, emotional neglect often leads to depression and a feeling of loneliness.

Social Media: The use of the Internet has brought about massive changes in our life styles. Generation Z is most deeply affected. Their life revolves around technology. Cyber bullying is a facet of the Internet that mostly goes unnoticed but may cause serious damage to one’s self esteem and bring along a whole range of other problems. It is seen as a symbol of social acceptance and with family ties dwindling, social media has its own list of make believe friendships and relations. Trolling and non-acceptance by these very group of people can be fatal. And of course, add to this long list, the infamous Blue Whale Challenge and similar outings on your handsets!

Our youngsters deal with a gamut of other issues such as sexual exploitation, finances, stress related to academics and jobs, separation of parents and even domestic abuse. These reasons, often go unnoticed and are at times not taken seriously enough. However, they are the kind of ticking bombs that explode anytime and way more number of times than they ever did before.

I happened to be part of a group of parents who went on and on with tirades about their “adolescent babies”. Yes, the life of a young child, or a teenager can be summed up in this one oxymoron. While it may be hard to guess, it is a difficult stage and takes more than just courage to get through it, especially when you live in a fast paced, competitive world that is throwing lemons at you every second. Well, what’s with that! Our young people are pretty capable of turning these lemons into thirst quenching lemonades. All they need is a support system. And where better can they find one if not at home or within their school campuses?

As parents we always wish to protect our children from the worries of the world. But we rarely realise that as they turn into adolescents, we too need to change gears. We need to realise that days of nappy changing are fast over and our little one is now grown up and needs to be treated likewise. Adolescence is the age of change and parents need to embrace it, probably earlier than they would want their children to do so. If you have a teenager at home whom you are finding hard to manage, let me assure that you are not alone in this battle. But, it requires tonnes of support from a parent to help their child sail through this stage. Any laxity may prove to be expensive in the long run. Here is a check list for parents who wish to befriend their young children. Ask yourself once every day…

  1. Have you been nagging your child a lot today and quoting success stories of estranged cousins and friends? If yes, it’s time to make up and tell them that they are unique in their own way and need not match up to anybody.
  2. Does your child have enough friends or is he a loner?
  3. Do you know all of his friends? Recent additions may be invited home, once in a while.
  4. Has your child spent most of the week indoors and alone? Well, you shouldn’t mind looking up the reasons.
  5. Have there been a few academic failures in recent past? There are always enough stories of winnings heaped on a pile of losses. Encouraging talks can go a longer way than house arrests and persistent criticism.
  6. Are you brushing off their feelings too often with the regular – “Your age” jibe? It could cause serious psychological issues.
  7. Have you, as yet, spoken to your teenager about dating, relationships, etc. If not, this is the time. Share your experiences and ask about theirs. Help them talk to you. More importantly, LISTEN.
  8. Is your child spending a lot of time with friends? Relax. Take it easy. Just tell them you are there when they need you.
  9. Are you saying ‘NO’ too often? This will only make them more adamant. Work out a more viable option that suits you both. If things are spoken about at length and explained, there is no reason why nobody would not understand.
  10. Is there enough spiritual exercise at your place? It is important for your child to derive strength from you and all kind of positive energies that you may be able to generate at your home. At the same time, physical well-being must also be looked after well.
  11. Does your child have a healthy relationship with teachers at school? Is there something bothering him there? If yes, well, you may pay his teacher a visit and try to reason out things.
  12. The world, I agree, is not an easy place to be in. But, it is beautiful at the same time. Are you, as a parent or a teacher, doing enough to help your child see and appreciate the gift of life?

The youth today has huge potential. They are a store house of untapped energy, only waiting to be channelized. The idea is not to point fingers at their loud, jarring music or the lack of vision or the hopelessness of grades. The idea is to listen attentively to what they are not saying. Don’t be fooled by the mask they wear, by their confidence or the impression of security or their cool attitude- as if they don’t care! Because beneath all of this, lies probably, confusion, fear and aloofness. The panic at the thought of being exposed, the fear of being shamed, the fear of non- acceptance.  Present to them stories of failure and courage. Quote often tales of men and women who rose from ashes. Speak to them of your failures and hardships. Be kind, gentle, encouraging! Maybe then, and only then, we will be able to redeem our children and help them sing the songs of life!

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