Suicides; what is wrong? II
This is in continuation to what I have written in my earlier article. Then, it was a hasty attempt to reason out with the adolescents as to why it is wrong to take one’s own life, an argumentative monologue. I concluded saying that it is a big, bad undesired problem. But just advocating why it is wrong doesn’t solve the problem. We never know whether it is a problem in itself or a symptom of a bigger problem at the societal level. Here I would like to discuss about the causes and conditions that lead to suicides. Besides, I would also opine as to how as a society we can tackle it.
As remarked by Gandhiji over Indian struggle for freedom, “First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight with you and you win”, that holds true to problems as well. This is the motivation behind my posts. We first do not believe it as a problem, and then we think it’s insignificant even if we do, then we argue and accept, then we find solutions and ultimately it gets solved. Although we may not zero down but we can achieve significant reduction. I am continuing to write because I believe in life and humanity.
Over a period of 4 years in college I personally witnessed two suicides, both men. A senior guy in Sherubtse and a junior colleague in Gaeddu, both drug overdosed. Albeit, unintentional the two knew pretty well that using drugs without medical advice was suicidal in any case. Although we (Bhutan) have a multi agency initiative to control access to psychotropic substances, they are still easily available. Notwithstanding the limitations, why can these agencies not do better to close the gates? By agencies, I mean ministry of health (including hospitals), customs, police and Narcotics control board among others.
Another serpent, deadly enough is alcohol, deeply seated in our culture. It’s needless to use health statistics here to say liver cirrhosis is a killer in our country. We all know that. Alcohol when combined with sedative drugs becomes fatal, I was told. I would like to reiterate a point here that when sane, men do not wish to die even under testing circumstances. But when intoxicated, we can’t think and reason well. That is when we are susceptible to succumb to suicides, if we are already under considerable distress.
Tobacco came under an infamous legislative scrutiny, while in my opinion alcohol merited such a review. Since alcohol has deep roots in our culture we may not be able to completely ban brewing at home but we can do something with the production of ethylic alcohols, provided there is a strong political will. However, as of today nothing towards that end has been done.
Suicides among adolescents are a common feature in developing and especially in educated societies. This for me is a dichotomous observation. Why? Why people with better understanding of the world and life, try to end life? Is the answer philosophical? I don’t know. Is it something to do with their upbringing? Is the social media environment marketing suicidal ideas? Is the state not creating employment opportunities? Are the distressed not attended well? In fact I have a lot of questions. However I have my own opinions and no definite answers.
The fact that college students taking suicide is disturbing news. Are the students left with nothing worthwhile to do? Or are they too stressed? I would believe neither. My suspicions are unemployment, media influences, upbringing and lack of attention when in distress. WHO has aggregative statistics with regard to suicide of the world but I don’t know if they have a profile for Bhutan.
Before any initiative to solve a problem, it is imperative to have a correct understanding. Research is the way to gather necessary facts. Fix the various pieces of the puzzle and then draw inferences as to what is the leading cause. Then decide on a plan of action, starting from advocacy. This is squarely the responsibility of ministry of health.
Parents and teachers should equally be concerned about how they interact and what they impart to young minds. Bhutan has a rich lore of cultural values, essentially drawn from Buddhism such as preciousness of life. These have to sink in the unset malleable minds in their developmental stage. Home is the best place for such basic human values. Although parents may not give them thoughts but they must guide their thinking. For that to happen parents have to devote considerable time. The conservative approach to communication must also be broken. This is impeding effective communication.
Today schools and colleges churn out more youth than the labour market can absorb, thereby resulting in increasing rate of unemployment. Our GDP growth is mostly driven by capital intensive hydropower projects. Service industries such as tourism are yet to grow and create jobs. With high expectations youth enter the job market only to be greeted by a jobless economy. Frustrations only build up when they are offered to be creative entrepreneurs with no business opportunity. Moreover private sector is nascent except in trading and construction.
The job seekers are out there on their own, no work and no money. This anxiety starts from college itself. When they have to make parasitic living in expensive Thimphu, life is no more fun. Day in day out flipping through newspapers, running from office to office, only to go to bed exhausted without a job. That must be a terrible feeling. Governments must do something to provide enduring gainful employment than mere peanut stipends and unemployment tips. If we can’t reap the benefit out of the educated young enthusiastic group of citizens, it may be a governance failure. I think it is not a bad idea to think about service centric manufacturing industries in the face of unfavorable balance of payments.
Distress levels are to the brim and young minds doesn’t stretch beyond a point. They develop distress disorders. Social media and digital media serve them with romantic ideas such as suicide. They make easy prey. Studies reveal that people with distress disorders take suicides. But these disorders are treatable. In that case psychotherapeutic capabilities should be enhanced; such vulnerable groups should be identified and given treatments before promoting back to mainstream society. We cannot afford to lose them.
This topic is making rounds in the social media at least for now. But to take effect it has to reach the agencies concerned and the policy makers. I hope contents like mine reach them. This concerns and worries have to translate into policy objectives and be delivered, restoring hopes of future ultimately.