Kerala

Child suicide notions debunked

The pandemic-induced lockdown had little bearing on child suicides, as 66 children had taken their lives between March 25 and July 8 compared to 83 such deaths during the same period the previous year.

This was among the many notions debunked by a report on child suicides in Kerala drafted by a five-member committee appointed by the Social Justice Department. The committee, chaired by R. Sreelekha, Director General of Fire and Rescue Services, looked into 158 child suicides between January and July this year.

About 74% of the victims were staying with their biological parents when they took the extreme step. The committee observed that so many children dying by suicide despite being in parental/family care was alarming and broke the notion that parental presence was an effective deterrent to child suicides. Only 15 victims were with a single parent. Also, 144 victims had siblings, which went against the grain that children without siblings are more prone to suicide out of loneliness.

Poor communication

The report observed that the correlation between three factors – place of suicide, type of family, and with whom the child was staying – clearly pointed to a lack of or inadequate support system within the family and breakdown of communication between parents and children.

Most victims, 83%, took their lives at home and were closeted alone inside their room for long hours with little interaction with the rest of the family, hinting at scant attention given to children by parents at home.

Most victims were from nuclear families without any alternative support system other than parents. In one case, parents came to know that their 17-year-old daughter was pregnant only from the post-mortem report.

Unknown reasons

Among the victims, 26 children had a trend of suicide running in the families and were hence exposed to it from a young age. In 41 cases, the reason for suicide was ‘unknown,’ which the committee concluded may be because the victims were otherwise active and smart.

Parental scolding triggered suicide in 19 cases and mobile phone addiction and failed affairs accounted for 12 and 14 deaths respectively. Trivial reasons like unmet demand for cycles and TV remote control also led to deaths.

Unexpected cases

Fifty children were good in academic and extracurricular activities, which hinted that their issues could have been overlooked since the focus is usually on vulnerable children.

Girls accounted for 66% of 108 suicides in the age group of 15-18 years, while in the younger age group of 9-14, boys were among 30 out of the 49 victims. Only 11 victims had mental health problems.

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Printable version | Dec 3, 2020 8:31:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/kerala/child-suicide-notions-debunked/article32986405.ece

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