September 10th is World Suicide Day
. Traditionally, suicide is more common among older males. However, of late, there is an alarming increase of suicide among the young that places them on the high-risk slot in one-third of the world's countries. Let us, therefore, get an insight into the adolescent world.
Period of transition
Adolescence, derived from the Latin word adolescere
meaning 'to grow', is an exciting period in everybody's life. Each one of us wants to spread our wings and soar into yet unknown and unexplored realms of life.
The duality of adolescence stems from an intrinsic fear of letting go of a secure childhood and the tempting feeling of 'becoming my own person'. Tweens and teens are seeking an identity of their own; they try to achieve this by making commitments and choices and trying to live up to them. This involves a lot of courage but it can also be stressful.
Wrong choices, poor judgments and hasty actions are all challenges of growing up; these lessons of experience and learning throw light on the right answers, simultaneously nurturing a sense of responsibility in adolescents. They are essential prerequisites for developing life skills. This is a crucial period of transition when they need all the support they can get from parents and friends.
An adolescent can have terrific mood swings-one minute it is a happy face the next it is a scowling one. This is a natural outcome of emotional upheavals that
an adolescent is trying to come to terms with whilst still grappling with physical and psychosocial changes. In the words of journalist Laurence Bernabeu, 'When the body begins to change, with it go all our old points of reference. Adolescents then face a tough task as they leave the familiar ground of childhood for a new land, the shape of which is sometimes difficult to make out.'
It is sometimes difficult for an adolescent to express himself or herself because he or she cannot understand himself or herself!
This can be an unnerving situation. So, an adolescent seeks the company of similar individuals with whom he or she can share and express feelings. A feeling of acceptance will boost an adolescent while a rejection can hurt him or her very deeply.
'Peer' communication goes a long way in helping an adolescent adjust to the changing times. Childhood activities such as playing board games will be replaced by newer interests that involve more socializing with friends. Friends and friendship have such an impact during this stage that in fact, an adolescent may become a total stranger to the family!
The loophole here is the type
of peer group an adolescent is associating with. The influence-positive or negative -of peer groups can change the outlook of adolescents drastically, even for the rest of their life. This will manifest in their
» Clothes and
Studies in France reveal that three quarters of adolescents are smokers, 41% are on drugs and 11.5% are alcohol consumers.
In India, the recent unearthing of a 'rave party' in Pune has sent alarming signals about the trends of its youth.
Latest news reports that schools in Mumbai have banned public display of affections and indecent exposure within its premises. 'Between 16 and 18 years of age hormones run amok,' states the principal of a well-known school. Principals are worried at the bold and wild attitudes of teenagers, caused in part due to the influence of the silver screen. They feel that such 'immoral' actions go against the ethics of Indian culture.
Tweens and teens look for role models to emulate. Inability to live up to their role models can make teenagers frustrated and desolate.
In addition, living up to the expectations of family and friends or peer group can drain an adolescent, emotionally and physically. This can also affect their health adversely.
Psychologically, they may affect an adolescent in the following ways,
» Anxiety and depression
» Taking risks
» Body image
» Frustration, and even,
» Suicidal tendencies.
Global suicide rate stands at 14.5 deaths per 100,000. It is the fourth leading cause of death among 15 to 19 year olds. The highest suicide rate is among Indian teens. South India, especially, TamilNadu tops the list in the number of young women within this age group, committing suicides.
Channels of communication
'The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn't being said.'
It is important for parents and others close to an adolescent, to leave the channels of communication open in order to facilitate mutual exchange of thoughts. On the other hand, adolescents must know that they are not alone and help is always available at hand. They must feel free to communicate with their parents as they do with their peers.
Period of experimentation
'Praise youth and it will prosper.'
During adolescence, goals for the future may be set and discarded quickly only to be replaced by other completely contrasting ones. After all adolescence is a period of experimentation!
Being patient, boosting their morale, instilling confidence and expressing love will act as stabilizing forces on an adolescent. Parents must also make discreet inquiries and checks to keep their youngster from succumbing to too much peer pressure and excessive experimentation.
Adolescence is not an easy time- due to either its very nature or the times we live in-but, with support it can be comfortably endured. After all, as Aristotle said,
'Young people are in a condition like permanent intoxication, because youth is sweet and they are growing'