I started this blog to honor my son who committed suicide at age 21 after a year of suffering with schizoaffective disorder and taking high dosages of anti-psychotics. I want to return to this theme and expand it to include all of the suicides of young people throughout the world and their reasons for not having ‘a life worth living’.
I feel close to India because I work for a 37 year old Indian man and lived with his family for a year. I also have a young Indian co-worker in India and another Indian doctor co-worker. India has the highest rate of young adult suicide in the world proportionate to its high population. Population of India is 1.25 billion people; 65% of the population is 35 years and younger. Teens in Southern India have the highest rate of suicide in the world.
Suicide deaths accounted for between 50 to 75 percent of all deaths in young women in the 15-19 age group. Contributing factors for the high levels of suicides for young females includes untreated mental illness, domestic violence, and conflicts over dowries which are illegal in India but still exist.
Being a teenager has never been easy. India tops the world in teen suicides as killer exam stress and depression become key factors, but other urban pressures are also taking a heavy toll. Is growing up more trying than ever? It is in the United States and I’ll come back to that.
A mother sits huddled in front of her dead son. “I want to say sorry for not listening to you,” she stutters as she talks and searches for words, her eyes welling with tears. Neither she nor her husband had accepted Mehta’s diagnosis that behind her son’s falling grades and temper tantrums, lay learning disability and severe depression. “Conduct disorder is his way of gaining self-respect,” Mehta had told them.
The parents, more interested in improving his school performance, had not heeded the advice, “Don’t put pressure on him.” Just before the annual exams, he had suddenly turned over a new leaf: he was nice to everyone, listened to everything his parents said, met up with people he was fond of. This is the way that Marco was the day he took his life.
Being a teenager has never been easy. But in the new millennium, amidst unprecedented prosperity, growing up seems to have become more trying than ever for Indian teens.
The grim epithet to their tormented lives is the suicide note. Sometimes they express an inability to cope with pressure, as in the case of a Delhi student who hanged himself from a ceiling fan by his mother’s sari. “Goodbye,” he wrote.
“I can’t take the pressure any longer. I love my family and I hope they will understand.” Ever so often there is helplessness: “I am not doing well in exams,” wrote a girl from Chandigarh to her parents before she took her life, “I can’t even manage my own affairs. I’ve frittered away my college fees on trivia. No one’s responsible for my death.”
I would like to hear from young people in India about their concerns; their experiences with friends who took their lives; about what makes ‘a life worth living’.
Please respond and keep this vital blog alive with new blood!
Sincerely, Suzanne – mother of Marco