Youth suicide: It ends now!

When you feel like giving up, just remember the reason why you held on for so long.  – Anon

Earlier this year, the suicide of a 16-year-old schoolgirl shook the nation. Before her suicide, she had posted a voting poll on her Instagram story, asking her followers to decide whether or not she should kill herself.

It made international headlines, and somewhat served as a wakeup call to the country that we have a very serious problem.

Another heart-wrenching case occurred in August of this year, whereby a young boy decided to hang himself as a result of failing to cope with studies and school work. He was only 13 years old.

Deputy Prime Minister Datuk Seri Dr Wan Azizah Wan Ismail issue a statement, saying that it is crucial that the issues that affected students are facing, are properly identified to ensure they get proper help and do not result in suicides.

Suicide cases are quite common in Malaysia and are on the rise. In 2017, the Malaysian National Health and Morbidity Study noted that they observed a rising trend in suicide cases among youths aged 13 to 17.

In that same year, they also recorded that 10 per cent of youths had suicidal tendencies, a 2.1 per cent rise from 2012, which in contrast had 7.9 per cent.

A national survey conducted by the Malaysian Ministry of Health reported that Malaysian teen aged between 13 and 17 have a high tendency of suffering from mental health issues such as depression, anxiety and stress.

What is causing this? Why have our youth decided to opt for suicide?

In Malaysia, many, if not most, of the leading causes of suicide among our youth is mental illness.

Unfortunately, the discussion of mental health and mental illness is still considered somewhat of a taboo in our society. This is because most of our society fear mental illness patients, and this case is especially true in the context of Sarawak.

When one mentions a mental health patient, the other will typically think of mental institute escapees, who tend to be violent and unpredictable, and not stressed out students who are desperate for release.

Simply put, our society does not fully understand mental health, and thus the students who suffer from depression, stress or anxiety will often hide their struggles and pain, in an attempt to not be misjudged and labelled as “gila” or crazy.

It is also equally important to note that these mental illnesses may stem from stress caused by other issues, such as peer pressure, financial problems, relationship issues, and so on.

Youths are not yet fully matured and will tend to make rash decisions due to pressure and stress. One of the most common factors for youths developing mental health problems is familial problem which is also one of the leading causes of youth suicide.

Familial problems may range to harsh parenting styles and familial conflicts, both of which may lead to the affected youths developing mental illnesses such as anxiety or depression.

In a desperate attempt to escape the mounting stress caused by such conflicts, these youths then decide that suicide is the only way to be free.

With the rising cases of youth mental illness and suicide, it is clear that we have a serious problem on our hands.

If not dealt with appropriately, this problem might snowball into bigger and more serious problems, and have detrimental effects on not only our youth but also our nation.

First of all, more campaigns regarding mental health should be held in schools as well as universities, to tackle the stigma associated with mental illness.

In these campaigns, parents or guardians should be educated on the tell-tale signs of mental illnesses, as well as the next appropriate step to be taken if such signs are present in their children.

Free counselling sessions may also be held in schools or universities. This way, students who are suffering from depression, stress, as well as anxiety will be encouraged to share problems that plague their daily lives with the counsellors, free of stigma and judgement.

The counsellors may also decide on the next best course of action for the more severe cases, in an attempt to curb youth suicide.

As parents, the best thing we can do for our children is to encourage them to share their struggles with us and try our best to help ease their stress. After all, we were all students once, and we know how stressful it was when we were their age.

We should not brush them off as being “manja” or spoilt, but instead, lend them an ear and a shoulder to cry on.

The views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the New Sarawak Tribune.