A rise in the suicide rate among children below 18 years of age has become a matter of concern for Kerala. As per police data, 173 children died by suicide till September 30, 2020, up from last year’s annual figure of 142.
Out of the 173 cases reported this year, 154 were found hanging, while the remaining children had consumed poison or set themselves ablaze. As per the report, 141 of these children did not have any serious psychological problems. A five-member committee led by DGP R Sreelekha submitted a report in this regard to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.
The report mentions monotonous lifestyle, over-dependence on smartphones and internet due to reduced social interaction as the primary reasons for the high suicide rate among children.
“When you talk about reasons for suicides it can range from an impulsive act to depressive disorder. In children most of the time it is an impulsive act, to scare the parents or to take revenge on the parents after being denied something they want. In the current scenario, children are mostly inside their homes and don’t have a regular schedule or a purpose to fulfil in a time-bound manner,” Ms Vanidevi, Psychologist at Enlight Centre for Holistic Development, Trivandrum, told NewsMobile.
“There are high chances that children will be frustrated, especially when the home environment is not that stimulating/happy. Low chance to mingle with friends and to have a good social interaction also may add to the frustration and feeling of worthlessness in children. As the children are spending their time at home, their social support system is weak,” she added.
Talking about the increased screen time, Ms Vanidevi said, “High usage of social media and increased screen time also keeps the children away from family members. Most of the children are free to use gadgets nowadays as their mode of education is completely changed to online.”
Highlighting the increase in the number of appointments for children, Ms Vanidevi said, “After the lockdown led to the closing of schools for such a long time, we have been witnessing an increase in the number of appointments for child cases, behavioural issues, anxiety, depression, mobile addiction, etc.”
Ms Vanidevi, in her discussion with NewsMobile, also shared some tips to maintain good mental health. “In order to maintain good mental health, children should have a good schedule on a daily basis, a positive stimulating home environment, identify a hobby, and get involved in new and creative activities depending on their interest to witness a feeling of worthfulness.”
She added, “Children should be made a part of family responsibilities and should be given duties which they can take up depending on their age and capabilities. Open communication in the family, limited use of gadgets, good sleeping pattern, good social relations, communication with friends etc will also help in maintaining a healthy mind. A good productive family time like playing games as a family and having a recreational family time can also help in improving the communication pattern among the family members, eventually leading to better mental health.”
Ms Vanidevi concluded by mentioning the importance of necessary professional help, “Changes in behaviour patterns like withdrawal from family communication, change in food habits and sleep patterns, withdrawal from things which they used to enjoy should be addressed. Mental health is as important as physical health. Proper professional help is also necessary for certain situations, stigmatized view towards meeting a mental health professional should be avoided.”