How can we prevent suicides among the youth?

At the moment it seems that students are dying because of society’s negligence. It seems we’re not doing anything to help them. Picture: Noor Us Safa Anik


At the moment it seems that students are dying because of society’s negligence. It seems we’re not doing anything to help them. Picture: Noor Us Safa Anik

It is alarming that a total of 364 students died by suicide in Bangladesh between January and August this year, according to a survey by the Aachol Foundation. Among them were 194 students. Large numbers of college and university students also died by suicide. Several reasons have been identified for these suicides, including romantic relationships, meeting jams, failing exams, pressure to study, depression, deaths of friends, and financial problems. However, I would like to single out one simple root cause that propelled all other causes and led to this sad state of affairs: the lack of proper advice and guidance.

Students have to go through many troubles in their daily life and they need guidance and advice to deal with these troubles because sometimes it is difficult to deal with them alone. The first level of guidance and advice must come from their families, who should play a supportive role in treating students’ mental health issues and providing them with a supportive environment in which to voice their concerns and address the issues that bother them. However, due to the strain of social ties that modern life has created, students often find it difficult to seek advice from their families, and their families often become the cause of their stress and anxiety. In the Aachol Foundation survey, we see that family is often the driving factor behind student suicide. In such cases, friends and educational institutions need to fill the gap and give students the support they need.

Friends often become the first confidants of various problems students face, driving them into a mire of anxiety, stress, and depression. Therefore, the youth must be prepared to face these challenges and to help their friends in times of need. There should be mental health training programs for youth that they can use for their own benefit and the benefit of their friends. Various governmental and non-governmental actors working with mental health should create training programs that reach educational institutions, raise awareness of mental health, and train students to address mental health challenges for themselves and their friends. Along with trying to counsel a friend yourself, there is also a responsibility to advise them to seek professional support.

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Then comes professional mental health counseling, which should be made easily accessible to students. Ideally, all schools should have a dedicated mental health advisor who can speak to students about their mental health issues and provide appropriate advice to ensure their mental wellbeing. However, we are still a long way from such a system. There are many organizations dedicated to mental health, but counseling services are still few and far between. Most schools do not have any type of counseling service. At a minimum, the organizations that work with mental health should train teachers in every school in the country to work as counselors for their students. However, our teachers are already overworked and underpaid, and burdening them with the extra pressure of serving as mental health counselors might just be too much. But students sometimes have a special bond with some of their teachers and can open up to them in ways they wouldn’t open up to a stranger. Therefore, teacher training can be a good option.

We also need a national framework and dedicated suicide prevention programs to change this sad state of affairs. Currently, we don’t even have a national suicide prevention hotline, which is a requirement. There is a non-governmental hotline run by Kan Pete Roi, but not many people know about it. The national emergency number 999 should have suicide prevention services, or a new hotline dedicated solely to suicide-related emergencies can be established. The Government’s Department of Social Welfare and Department of Education must implement a joint program to reduce the number of suicides among students. At the moment it seems these students are dying because of society’s negligence. It seems we’re not doing anything to help them.

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Indeed, modern social realities have created various challenges that can encourage suicide. Higher expectations on the part of students and high social pressure to succeed in various key figures put enormous pressure on young people. This is a social reality that our society has to deal with through social enterprises, both public and private. A concerted effort must be made to lessen the burden on our youth and to listen carefully to their problems so that their concerns can be addressed and they can receive appropriate counseling to prevent further suicides. Training students and teachers, appointing counselors or social workers for educational institutions, establishing a national suicide prevention hotline, and establishing a broad national program to combat suicide can all help reduce suicide rates, and we should all do this as ours view the ultimate goal.

Anupam Debashis Roy is an independent author and researcher.

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