Teenage suicides shake up Russia

A spate of teenage suicides has shaken Russia, with officials calling for urgent measures and experts pointing to deep-rooted social problems.

A 15-year-old girl jumped from the 23rd floor of her apartment house in Moscow on Saturday. It was the sixth teenage suicide reported this week. On Tuesday, two girls aged 12 and 14, jumped from the roof of a 14-story building in Lobnya, just outside Moscow. The next day a 14-year-old boy jumped to death from the balcony of his 12th-floor flat in Moscow. Two boys hanged themselves in Yakutia and Krasnoyarsk, Siberia.

The immediate reasons for the suicide were different, ranging from fear of punishment for skipping classes to a quarrel with parents or a ban on using computer.

Shocking statistics made public in the wake of these suicides revealed a grim picture: every year 1,500 to 2,000 teenagers take their own lives in Russia. This is three times the world average, according to Dr. Boris Polozhy of the Serbsky State Psychiatric Centre.

Children's Ombudsman Pavel Astakhov blamed the Health Ministry for the escalation of teenage suicides and urged the government to draw up a programme for psychological help to children.

Experts said many suicides were the result of family problems.

“The extremely harsh, intolerable treatment of children by the grownups is the root cause of suicides,” said Prof. Mariana Bezrukhikh of the Institute of Age-Related Physiology.

Psychologists blame the dismantling of a system of free state-run out-of-school activities that existed in the Soviet Union.

“There was a network of sports, art and cultural activities that helped socialise schoolchildren,” said Prof. Mikhail Vinogradov, a noted authority in criminal psychiatry. “Today such activities are also available, but almost always for a pay that many cannot afford.”

Children are also traumatised by social upheavals that accompany Russia's transition to a capitalist economy.

“Teenagers are particularly sensitive to social and economic problems affecting their families. It hurts their psyche to see parents struggling to meet both ends and unable to buy them things they'd like to have,” the psychiatrist said.

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Printable version | Jan 26, 2021 9:19:28 AM |

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