When I was in the third year of my MBBS course, I was posted to the Psychiatry ward for the first time. It was a curiously satisfying stint for me, probably because it was one of my interests during that period of my life. The recent death of a student of MIT, Manipal on 15th February, brought back a memory from my posting in the Psychiatry ward.
“How do you feel now?” the doctor asked.
“Weak and a bit dizzy,” Geeta replied.
“Geeta, what could be so horrible in your life that you decide not to live?”
Geeta H, a 14-year old 9th grade student, had awakened in the hospital emergency room.
The doctor told her that she had been in the hospital for about 18 hours in a coma from an overdose of barbiturates.
Geeta’s mother, Anjana, took her daughter to the hospital early in the morning when she tried desperately to wake her up. Anjana knew immediately something was wrong when Geeta did not respond.
Incidents such as this, are alarmingly widespread across India. Each year, more and more teenagers commit suicide. Suicide is the second leading cause of death for the 15-19 age group.
Experts admit they have no simple answers for the epidemic of suicides, but nearly all point to the stresses and frustrations that youths experience during their teenage years. Some of the stresses and frustrations are peer pressure, grades, money, career goals, personal relationships, confusion and fear about the future and insecurity in the family.
In Geeta’s case, her parents were divorced. She had become extremely unhappy and felt that no one cared about her. Anjana, was never at home anymore to spend time with Geeta, she had to work to support the entire family now. Before attempting suicide, Geeta’s grades at school began to drop. She became very unsociable with other classmates and her two brothers and two sisters. She also lost interest in activities she once enjoyed. Geeta had shown signals of suicide by isolating herself from the world and by staying away from school. Whether Geeta talked about attempting suicide or not, it should be taken seriously.
Most people believe that a person who talks about taking their life are really not trying to commit suicide at all. In most cases, people who talk about suicide or try to commit suicide are not insane. They are very unhappy people but not insane.
Suicidal behavior is not inherited and not passed through the genes. Suicidal persons want to die, but at the same time they want to live. They wish two things at the same time. These wishes are a means of communications and they need someone to help them.
What can you do if you suspect someone you know is suicidal?
- Be alert to changes in their behavior. Behaviors such as feeling sad, loss of a sense of humor, breaking of friendships without a reason and increased tendency to cry.
- Talk openly with the person, even if you have to ask: “How do you plan to take your life?”
- Encourage the person to seek professional help. If the person does not want help, seek professional help for the person anyway.
- Find out which community resources can help a suicidal person. These may include a crisis hotline service, a crisis intervention center, a local suicide prevention center, a community-mental health program, a minister, a doctor, or even a school nurse or counselor.
- If a suicidal person says that he wants to kill himself and tells you not to tell anyone, get help immediately. Never keep it a secret among yourselves.
To many teenagers, suicide is the best answer to end their problems of frustrations and pressures. Where in fact, it is only a terrible tragedy that cheats them out of their future happiness.
The Manipal University Counseling center is is located on the I floor, Room No 104, manipal.edu building. The Counselor is available with prior appointment. Tel No: 0820 – 2922903 / 2922035. The Centre provides total privacy to students who need guidance and counseling. All matters discussed are kept strictly confidential.