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Teenagers and Suicide

by Arnel Banaga Salgado

Recently, Star newspaper (October 1, 2009) reported about a 13 year old boy taking his own life in Kota Baru by hanging himself with a nylon cord. Apparently, his parents did not have any idea that he would take his own life. Last year, a 12 year old girl hanged herself because she did not get straight A's in her examination, contrary to what her parents expected.

The rise of suicide in Malaysia is quite alarming since most of those who try to kill themselves are teenagers, cheerful and seemingly with no problems in life. These statistics covers around 7.4 per 100,000 average for the three races in Malaysia that can translate into a real public and mental health concern in the next five years.

What are the contributory factors that are considered in the increasing number of suicide in Malaysia? Among these are failure to detect the early signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation; overbearing and demanding parents, childhood trauma and abuses among others, peer influence and drug addiction.

Suicide can be prevented provided the parents or health workers recognize the early signs and symptoms of suicidal ideation. Among these are:

1. Suicide threats (direct and indirect). This happens when a person tells everyone that he wants to die or he wants to kill himself. It is a warning signal that the person considers taking his own life.

2. Poems, essays, and drawings that refer to death. When a person writes a poem, articled or draw anything about death, then the person is entertaining suicidal ideation.

3. Dramatic change in personality or appearance. When a person becomes lonely, dramatic or highly emotional, he is certainly trying to communicate that he is going to hurt himself soon.

4. Overwhelming sense of guilt, shame, or rejection. When a person views himself as a failure, or perhaps he would feel guilty about the underachievement he made as a result of poor academic performance contrary to what the parents expect as in the case of a 12 year old Malay girl who hanged herself last year.

5. Giving away belongings. When a person starts giving away all his precious possessions, then he is telegraphing his message that he will be leaving the world soon so he has no need of those things that starts to give away.

6. Previous suicide attempts. Any person who attempted suicide in the past will surely do it again the future. It is not true that if a suicide is prevented the first time, the person who did it will not do it again.

Parents, health workers and educators must always recognize that suicide is not an illness, but it is a call for help. If a teenager comes and approach someone, we need to listen to them since they have something to say, perhaps they are trying to reach out or they are trying to say, "I need you." We always remember that all teenagers and young adults are at risks, especially the following:

1. Depressed Youth.
2. Drug Addicts.
3. Gifted Youth.
4. Learning-Disabled Youth.
5. Unexpected Pregnancy.

Most suicidal teenagers desperately want to live; they are just unable to see alternatives to their problems, thus the role of the parents is to offer them alternatives to all the problems that they have. We always take note that that most people who commit suicide have talked about or given definite warning signs of their suicidal intentions few weeks before they would commit suicide, so if we spot the warning signal, then we can spare these teenagers from committing such an act.


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Copyright ©2023 by Arnel Bañaga Salgado, PsyD, EdD, DSc
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