Better safe than sorry

Anukriti Sharma
Monday, 4 September 2017

Ahead of World Suicide Prevention Day on September 10, people talk about how parents must communicate with their children and make them feel loved

The Blue Whale Challenge, or the suicide game as it is now known, has already claimed multiple lives across the world. An anonymous person gives a daily task - such as listening to certain genres of music, waking up at odd hours, watching a horror movie, among others - which usually starts off as a fun game and then slowly escalates to carving out shapes on one’s skin, self-mutilation and eventually suicide. There are these games, and then there are real-life situations like a girl being shamed for period stains by her teacher prompting her to commit suicide. But the question in both the cases remain the same - how and what prompts these kids to take such extreme steps? Are there no tell-tale signs of a child going through something so crucial and how exactly do we miss out on them? On World Suicide Prevention Day, we speak to counsellors, teachers and parents to know about why kids as young  as 11-12 years are considering suicide. Or why institutions which are supposed to educate are still following regressive approaches.

Challenges like these usually target kids who are weak-minded and in constant need for validation. They feel like they have to prove something to people by winning at these games. Their inquisition instigates them to look out for these games. Parents are usually the two people knowing the personality of their children well and therefore must have conversations with them every now and then. As parents, our focus only remains on anticipating the wrong things our child must be doing. At this age, a child needs care and must be taught some self-love. Children are often bullied in school but as parents we would never get to know these things. So you need to look out for simple signs and engage in conversations with children for their mental and psychological well-being. You can simply observe how either your child is going overboard with things or has isolated himself/herself. Both are extreme behaviours exhibited by people going through a tough time. Parents should try to find out what is wrong and if needed, take them to a counsellor or a psychiatrist. Conversation is the key.

Of course children don’t really open up if they are depressed or going through something but as teachers, it is easy to find out if a child is not feeling well. You can observe that they start isolating themselves. There are cases where kids are humiliated by their teachers in front of the class which prompts them to go into a shell. To solve these problems, teachers themselves should be given training in handling these children and what they should be avoiding in order to make them comfortable in the school environment. In almost all the schools now, you have counsellors to guide kids who are experiencing some difficulties. Teachers should be observant of how the child is behaving or if their grades are falling. Accordingly, they should have a conversation with the child’s parents and suggest counselling if it is necessary.

Teenage is almost like getting into adulthood, so we must understand their stand and be friendly and trust them so that they can  open up to us. Also we need to support them in all their good endeavour and correct them for wrong behaviour. At times if we think that teenagers commit way too many mistakes, remember their good traits. Always keep an eye on them and do not allow unwanted things; your monitoring should not be known to them but still maintain the relationship.

Being friends is more important then being a parent. And rather then monitoring your kid, he/she should be able to share with you and keep the dialogue open. As for company or friends, one chooses their own. But since kids absorb everything from us, I have to set an example of what friendship is about for my 12-year-old daughter. I openly talk to her about my friends and the fun we have. Sharing is to be cultivated also, I show her my Facebook and Instagram and how friends comment on it and explain to her the limits of privacy. I am aware of the blue whale challenge and so is she. But I have advised her to report it immediately if any of her friends are playing it. She’s been educated on the topic by me and her grandparents. Also I tell  her to do things for herself and not to prove it to anyone and there’s always someone who loves her.

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