Should we speak to children about suicide?

11 Feb 2018 / 22:48 H.

    WHEN M. Vasanthapiriya hanged herself on Jan 24 and subsequently died on Feb 1, many reacted with highly-charged emotions.
    We can even say a lynch mob was out, with some labelling it a murder case.
    Things seem to have cooled down now after police said they were investigating the case thoroughly and are pushing for an inquest to be held on the 13-year-old's death, once they have enough evidence.
    But the bigger question that seems to have escaped everyone's attention is how much children today are stressed and who they can turn to for help.
    On Aug 15 last year, an 11-year-old girl was found hanging from the ceiling of her house in Jalan Klang Lama, Kuala Lumpur.
    To add to the poignancy, her lifeless body was found by her 12-year-old brother when he returned home from school.
    Imagine the trauma of the boy seeing his sister in that state.
    What would drive a child so young to take her own life? What pushes children – who are supposed to play, learn and grow – to succumb to such stress, pressure or depression?
    Do we take our children seriously?
    Right or wrong, children are vulnerable.
    We all know that suicide is wrong. It is, in fact, a crime. And it is never the solution to any problem.
    But how are we going to teach children about this? How are we going to teach them to look at the bigger picture of life when faced with a perceived problem?
    The topic of suicide is no longer taboo as studies have shown many teens and youths have openly shared that they have had suicidal thoughts at least once.
    But why are we not talking about this with our children as a general topic of discussion just like other social problems?
    Studies have shown broaching the subject will not trigger suicidal thoughts but may instead reduce such acts.
    In Vasanthapiriya's case, didn't anyone notice anything off about her behaviour or speech? Did she have any avenues to seek help or anyone she could have spoken to about her troubles?
    The World Suicide Report released by the World Health Organisation in 2014 stated that each year, over 800,000 people take their own lives.
    Citing the report, Befrienders KL deputy chairman Vincent Tan said this is more than the total deaths resulting from other violent acts such as murder, war and terrorism combined.
    He said for every person who dies by suicide, another 25 more will make an attempt. They could be our family members, friends, classmates, colleagues or neighbours.

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