There has been a rise in student suicides in the city in recent years. More than 60 youngsters took their lives between September 2015 and April this year, or an average of three students each month.
When there are so many such tragedies, society appears to have become accustomed to the situation, as if it’s the new “normal” in today’s Hong Kong. And a vicious circle seems to be happening; more suicides “goad” more disgruntled students to take the same path.
Parents, and society as a whole, need to do some soul-searching as to what factors are pushing our students off the edge – heavy loads of schoolwork, anxiety over academic records, disputes with family members, relationship problems with boyfriend/girlfriend, etc.
A student who grows up in a happy family is unlikely to commit suicide. Parents and other family members are the first and last ones that a student with suicidal issues can count on.
One’s bond with parents may slacken during adolescence when the emotionally tumultuous period is often aggravated by inadequate communication with parents and disagreements over choice and outlook.
Instead of trying to rein them in and forcing them to accept a set of values, parents should be more accommodative to their kids, who are in a precarious stage of transition toward adulthood.
Treating adolescents with respect and showing them that we are willing to listen to them can go a long way in helping them sail through a bewildering period in their lives.
The home can be a safe haven and a launch pad for youngsters as they explore and decide on the path of life they should take, and especially when crunch time comes.
But if parents always resort to censure and suppression whenever their kids revolt against their expectations or simply become less tractable, they risk alienating the young adults, who may choose some radical ways to escape from bridled circumstances rather than seeking help from the family. This may add up to their feeling of estrangement, which may lead them to consider suicide as an option.
A lesson from many rueful parents is that some students may try to keep their stress under wraps even when they have long been feeling despondent or even thinking of ending their lives.
Parents need to spend time with their children to listen to their views and anxieties.
Psychologists tell us that taking one’s own life is a result of long planning and emotional struggles, which always involve a host of factors. Spur-of-the-moment suicides are exceptionally rare, as they are against human nature and instinct for survival.
It may take up to 90 days, with multiple phases, from thinking of suicide to actually committing it.
These phases can be summarized by five Ds: difficulty leads to disorder, then to desperation, and in turn a decision to end one’s life, including when and how.
The final stage is “discharge”, in which he or she may dispose of items they used to love or value a lot.
Parents must ask themselves: Does suicide really occur without any indication, or is it just that parents fail, or are too busy, to take note of them?
This article appeared in the Hong Kong Economic Journal on July 8
Translation by Frank Chen
[Chinese version 中文版]
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