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Dr Samir Parikh

He is Consultant Psychiatrist, Director-Department of Mental Health and Behavioral Sciences of Fortis La Femme

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Today’s Social Media And A Suicidal Teen

Suicide in itself is typically shrouded by stigma, which further leads to a hesitation in talking about it

With the recent advent associated with social media challenges like the Blue Whale and its alarming consequences, it becomes important to speculate on the phenomenon of suicide prevailing in the society today. Suicide in itself is typically shrouded by stigma, which further leads to a hesitation in talking about it. At the same time, hearing about the mention of the word often tends to evoke in us many powerful images, emotions and even judgments. Therefore, it becomes important to ensure we clarify common myths and misconceptions associated with suicide and self-harm, and at the same time also think about the need of the hour to prevent such incidents in the future.

Adolescents’ Vulnerability as a Population

Suicide was the second leading cause of death among 15-29-year old’s globally in 2012. While teenagers may go through difficult emotions such as loneliness or extremely stressful situations that have grave ramifications on their self-esteem and self-concept, they can also be driven to self-harm or even suicide. A suicidal teen is likely to be filled with many despairing and negative emotions that make it difficult for him to see beyond a very narrow focus. They are likely to feel helpless about being able to change the present and therefore hopeless about the future and are driven to self-destruction.

Preventive Approach

1. Suicide can be prevented

More often than not, suicide is not an impulsive decision that happens on the spur of the moment. In fact, it is a well thought out decision, which means that there could be many clear warning signs of people who might be contemplating suicide. Therefore, it is important to be vigilant to these signs, and to know how to respond to them. Not only can they give clues about impending suicidal behaviour but, more often than not, they are desperate cries for help by the individual.

2. Need for Awareness

It is important for us to realize that suicide is preventable. Therefore, creating an awareness and educating people about the signs that could be indicative of some distress being experienced by the individuals who might be contemplating suicide is imperative.

3. Availability of Support

An adequate peer support and social network system, family support, school as well as community connectedness could serve as a major factor in lessening the risk of suicides. It is necessary to spread awareness about accessibility as well as referrals to appropriate professional help of counselors and psychiatrists.

4. Social skills training

Besides dealing with a crisis situation, it is important for schools and the community to promote active social skills training, to help the youth to develop healthier coping mechanisms to deal with their internal conflicts. Efforts could be made to focus on parents and teachers alike building trust and rapport with them, so as to enable an atmosphere of open communication.

5. Detoxify the environment

If the adolescent is at risk for suicide, he or she should not be left alone. All dangerous items that are potentially harmful including sharp objects, pills, and poisonous substances need to be removed from the reach of the teenager. He or she should not be allowed access to the balcony or the terrace either.

6. Holistic approach is necessary

Such policies are a must especially for school children and teenagers. Efforts should be made to focus on building trust and rapport with them, so as to enable an atmosphere of open communication, encouraging the reporting and sharing of their innermost feelings easily. Parent and community awareness programs need to be created to encourage parental notification and involvement. Forming a multi-component model for awareness building, preventive strategies as well as training for adequate intervention-based approaches for parents, teachers, as well as students is essential.

7. Seek professional advice

It is absolutely crucial to seek help from a psychiatrist at the earliest to prevent any untoward incident. This is especially so for the adolescents who are severely depressed or at high risk for suicide. Suicidal thoughts and intents are very often associated with a treatable mental disorder like depression, and such a realization can not only instill a sense of confidence but also make the adolescent more amenable to seeking professional help.

Disclaimer: The views expressed in the article above are those of the authors' and do not necessarily represent or reflect the views of this publishing house

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