Freeman Cebu Lifestyle

Suicide and the youth

Ritche T. Salgado - The Freeman

CEBU, Philippines - News of the student of the University of the Philippines-Manila who committed suicide after failing to pay her tuition fee has been trending in all media lately. It has sparked a lot of discussion with many people rebuking the school’s administrators and cursing the school’s policy.

Everyone agrees that the poor girl was a victim of a crooked system that’s driving our young people to commit such desperate acts, but only a few recognized that more than the government’s inability to do its job in making education accessible to our young people, this sad situation is also about government’s abandonment in addressing the mental and behavioral health concerns of the country, leaving each of us to our own devices in identifying and addressing this concern.


Suicide risk factors

So, what drives people to commit suicide?

In Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools, published by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration of the US Department of Health and Human Services, several risk factors for suicide were listed.

The risk factors are divided into behavioral health issues or disorders, personal characteristics, adverse or stressful life circumstances, risky behaviors, family characteristics, and environmental factors. The more one has of the risk factors, the higher one’s tendency for suicidal behaviors.

More common risk factors include but not limited to the following:

• Depressive disorder;

• Previous suicide attempt;

• Substance abuse or dependence;

• Hopelessness;

• Low self-esteem;

• Loneliness;

• Risk taking or carelessness;

• Poor problem solving or coping skills;

• Interpersonal difficulties or losses;

• School or work problems;

• Physical, sexual, or psychological abuse;

• Aggressive or violent behavior;

• Exposure to other suicides, leading to suicide contagion; and

• Negative social and emotional environment at school, including negative attitudes, beliefs, feelings, and interactions of staff and students.


Identifying people with suicidal tendencies

A person who is at risk of suicide would show several warning signs. It is not true that a person would just commit this act without leaving a hint that such an act is to be committed.

The American Association of Suicidology has come up with “IS PATH WARM?,” a mnemonic based on the first letter of the signs of suicide or suicide intent, as follows:

• Ideation which is expressed or communicated thoughts of hurting oneself, and include threatening or talking of wanting to hurt or kill him or herself; looking for ways to kill him or herself by researching on access to firearm, available medications, or others; and writing or talking about death, dying, or suicide;

• Substance abuse that is becoming more frequent and to include alcohol and/or drugs;

• Purposelessness, or the seeming absence of reason to live;

• Anxiety or agitation as expressed by being slow tempered, irritability, inability to sleep, or always sleeping;

• Trapped, or feeling like there is no way out;

• Hopelessness, or the feeling that he or she has no future;

• Withdrawal from friends and family;

• Anger that could be expressed by the constant need to seek revenge or through sudden outbursts of rage;

• Recklessness or engaging in activities that are risky, with total disregard of one’s safety; and

• Mood changes that are becoming more frequent.


Although the presence of these signs may not automatically mean a person is about to commit suicide, but the more of these signs a person would demonstrate, the higher the risk.


Preventing suicide

Preventing suicide needs a holistic approach. In schools, it needs the involvement not just of school administrators and the teachers, but also of the students and the parents.

Most of the time, removing the risk factors of suicide is all that it takes to prevent it. So instead of an environment that encourages friction and division, promote a cheerful and positive atmosphere. Involve students in school activities, and make them feel that they are an integral part of a community.

Give them purpose and teach them respect for the self and others.

More importantly, establish a system that will allow everybody to have easy access to care and support.

When you know of someone who exhibits the signs of suicide, first, make sure that the person is not left alone. If you are unable to be with the person, then ask someone else to be with that person.

Sometimes it only takes for a person to voice out his or her frustrations for him or her to realize that taking one’s life is not the solution to his or her problems. Offer a listening ear, but don’t be intrusive, allow the person to talk, don’t ask questions because it may increase one’s anxiety or agitation.

If you are not a trained counselor, don’t offer advice. Your intentions may be good, but the advice that you might give may not be the one that the person needs. Leave the counseling to the professionals.

It is also advisable that you remove any object or weapon that could potentially be used in one’s attempt to commit suicide. Keep guns, knives or other sharp and breakable objects like mirrors and glass bottles, and / or drugs away from the person.

Lastly, bring him or her to a medical or mental health professional who could properly the person’s concerns and problems.

Suicide is such a tragic event. It stresses out not just the family but the whole community. So, let us all work together to help address this concern and promote not just the health of our body but also of our mind and spirit.


Comments? Email the author at [email protected] or follow him on Twitter at @tribong_upos. His blog, Tribo’s Cup, can be read at http://tribong-upos.xanga.com. “Preventing Suicide: A Toolkit for High Schools” is a useful reference for educational institutions in preventing suicide and promoting behavioral health among its students. The whole publication can be downloaded for free at http://store.samhsa.gov/product/SMA12-4669.  (FREEMAN)

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