Alarming rise in suicide rates among school goers

Experts say adolescents in BD need mental health care to recover from the pandemic-induced scar

| Updated: September 26, 2022 17:27:21

Alarming rise in suicide rates among school goers

Dr Sifat-e-Syed was surprised receiving large numbers of written questions from the eighth and ninth graders of the city's Holy Cross School. She did not expect such a large volume of queries on mental health issues from the children. As Dr Syed asked them to write their queries in a slip, the students felt comfortable to share their problems without mentioning names.

With this large volume of queries, she realised the extent of mental health problem school-going children are facing in the post-pandemic time.

"I appreciate the initiative of Holy Cross High School to arrange mental health awareness programme for students in right time which other educational institutes can follow," said Dr Sifat, who conducted the sensitising session.

Level of mental health awareness is still poor in educational institutes, she observed.

Students of Holy Cross School are one of the examples of hundreds of thousands of adolescents in Bangladesh who need mental health care to recover from the pandemic-induced scar.

However, some of the schools have recently taken initiatives to arrange mental health awareness programmes for students and teachers.

Mental health experts have been surprised by the current trend of the suicide attempts among the school-going students which was found among the university students earlier.

Last month, a ninth-grader of Holy Cross Girls School and College reportedly committed suicide after returning from school.

Dr Syed, assistant professor of Psychiatry at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Medical University (BSMMU) in Dhaka said it is a matter of grave concern that tendency of committing suicides is shifting to the teenagers in 2022 which was among the university students earlier.

Sister Kolpona Kosta, Assistant Headmistress of Holy Cross School, said the school arranged mental health awareness programme following changes among the students after a two-year break of the Covid-19 pandemic.

"We may have to continue such programmes in future," she said.

Principal of AG Church School Shikha Biswas said that a good many students of sixth and ninth grades were behaving differently and became addicted to digital devices.

"We have arranged mental health awareness programme in a bid to support them recover from the problem," she said.

The AG Church School arranged mental health counseling on September 21. The Holy Cross School held the mental health awareness programme last week.

The latest data relating to the issue reveals some 53.30 per cent of the suicides are now seen among the primary to secondary level school students. College students are in second position occupying 20.88 per cent while university students 13.74 per cent. A rising trend of suicide now is also found among Madrasah pupils.

Madrasah students comprise 12.09 per cent of the people committed suicides, the data showed.

Mahmuda Rahman (not real name), a middle-age housewife, completely broke down after demise of her 21-year-old son in June last. The 51-year-old woman was repenting and blaming herself ignoring her son's complains and depression since school life. It was beyond her imagination that her loving son would commit suicide. After her son attempted suicide twice, her family members and nears ones said he had done this out of emotion and the mental state would disappear after he grows up.

Mahmuda is one of the hundreds of cases across the world who realises the need for taking care of mental health of children after a great loss.

"My son would be with me now had I sought help from a mental health expert or psychiatrist then," she lamented.

Social and family support is also important for a person facing such problems, she added.

The World Suicide Prevention Day-2022 was observed on September 10, 2022. The Suicide Prevention Clinic under the Psychiatry Department of the BSMMU organised a seminar on this occasion.

Dr Syed presented a key note paper highlighting some points including de-stigmatise the help seeking, adequate research, national help centre, dissemination of information, empathy towards people attempt to commit suicide.

In nearly 17 months from March 22, 2021 to August 9, 2022, a total of 16 doctors and medical students committed suicides in Bangladesh, the key note paper said.

Girl students of schools are among the 60.71 per cent of people committed suicide while boys are 39.29 per cent.

According to the UN's World Health Organisation (WHO), over 0.7 million (700,000) people commit suicide every year. For each suicide, there are more than 20 suicide attempts. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among the children aged 15-19. Around 77 per cent of global suicide occurs in low- and middle-income countries. A person is committing suicide in every 40 seconds.

In a recent survey, social and voluntary organisation "Anchal Foundation" found some 364 students committed suicide in eight months- January to August- of the current year across the country. Most of them are school-level students.

According to the survey, the suicide rate is high among school students. Among those who committed suicide, 194 were school students. A 7-year-old child also committed suicide.

Studies show that on average, more than 45 students commit suicide every month. Suicide rates are highest among 14-16 years olds, with 160 suicides committed by people of this age group.

Tansen Rose, Managing Director of the foundation said multiple factors are associated with the suicide attempts but usually a specific reason is pointed out at the end.

There is a myth that people having religious belief would not commit suicide which is not true as Imam of Mosque and Madrasah students have also committed suicides, he mentioned.

He said suicide tendency is seen among the school students as they are addicted on digital devices rather than playing outside.

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