Depression & Suicide On The Rise Among Children: What You Need To Know As A Parent

Do these children not get to live their lives just like the rest of us? Where have we, as parents, failed in helping them understand this basic point?

Every once in a while we witness a shocking headline that makes us stop what we are doing.

Children either before their exams or after the results, end up taking their lives, unable to cope up with the pressure that society- parents, educators and peers have created. The question is – why have we failed them as a society?

Do these children not get to live their lives just kike the rest of us? Where have we, as parents, failed them in helping them understand this basic point?

These incidents have brought to the forefront the question that most parents ask themselves at some point – what kind of expectations are we imposing on our children that force them to do something this drastic?

NCERT Survey

I’m a mother to an 11-year-old and a 7-year-old and they’re just starting on their educational as well as the emotional journey. But I’m extremely alarmed and upset by the number of suicide cases I’ve been reading about in the paper – all of them are young children who chose to end their lives. Suicide is the leading cause of death amongst Indians aged between 15 -29 years. Statistics show that kids as young as 11 years are suffering from depression. Now, that should make you sit up and take notice.

A study published by the Indian Journal of Psychiatry in 2009 revealed that childhood and adolescent mental disorder rates stood at

  • 12.5 % in the 0-16 age group in Bangalore
  • 9.4 % in 8-12 years age bracket in Kerala
  • 6.3 % in 4-11 year age bracket in Chandigarh

The overall figure in India stood between 6 and 15 %

Image Source:  Scroll

-NCRB Study

Are schools equipped to identify, pinpoint and address Depression?

Our kids spend 60% of their day in school surrounded by teachers and friends. The moment the kids come home our first few questions to them are normally ‘How was school?’ or ‘ Did you have a test?’ ‘ How was the test?’. We’re constantly putting pressure on them to perform and stay on top of their game – even kids as young as 6 years deal with these questions.

In school, the teachers who are supposed to be mentors and the support system for the kids outside the house, are also not that supportive when they realise a child performs below par because they are caught up with performance and trying to keep up with high-performance figures. All these things lead to children getting depressed about things like, they’re not as smart as their friends or they’re not getting the marks their parents want them to get etc.

Most schools in India are not equipped to identify or address depression in students. There are very few schools that have counsellors on board to identify the problems and guide their students. In the absence of any clear guidelines from the state education department on the issue, some question the need to appoint an additional staffer for only a few stray cases, while others insist that schoolteachers can easily double up as ‘guides’ to help students.

PM Narendra Modi recently addressed these issues at the Pariksha Pe Charcha event. From handling pressure to moderating screen time to embracing failure, PM Modi’s speech had essential takeaways for children and parents too. Read more about his speech here.

Not a silent topic anymore

The Prime Minister recently addressed the nation on the occasion of World Health Day which is on 7th April 2017 and he appealed to all Indians to come out and speak about their battle against depression.

“I want to tell my countrymen, that depression is not incurable. There is a need to create a psychologically conducive environment, to begin with. The first mantra is the expression of depression instead of its suppression.”

Everyone is clearly alarmed at the growing number of suicides across the world. The WHO (World Health Organization) has made depression and mental illness the focus of this year. Facebook also recently the Parent’s Portal to help parents and kids deal with bullying and depression. Read about it here.

How we can help our children

Neerja Birla, wife of a successful business tycoon and mom to three children stresses that the family needs to sit together and discuss things – the good and the bad. Watch her interview to know more.

Priyanka Bakhru Talwar who is a counsellor and specializes in mindful parenting says that

“Every living being has an instinctive flight or fight mechanism inbuilt into them. Simply put, depression occurs when the mind believes that there is no way out, neither escaping nor taking control of a situation or circumstance. Traditional schooling systems that focus on grades and percentages, combined with parents who put pressure, will always lead to some sensitive kids and teenagers who collapse under the weight. Until there is a sea change in the system to encourage the joy of learning and helping children find their talents, such heart wrenching tragedies will not go away.”

Here is a throwback to a discussion we had with educator Sameer Arora, VP, Shiv Nadar School, on what it takes to raise resilient kids, who learn to embrace failure.

When we were growing up we all dealt with peer pressure, but our kids have it a lot worse and it’s a whole new level. As parents, we have to make time for our children no matter how busy we are. They need us more than anything right now. We have to stand by our children and keep an eye on them to understand how they are dealing with the pressures in their lives. We hope this helps throw light on the turmoil and mental stress our children are dealing with. We hope schools and families find a way to counsel these troubled children and save them from themselves.

If you feel the urge to hurt yourself right now or you are feeling emotionally distressed, then please call the following helpline numbers- 9152987821

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