Saturday, May 26, 2001

What prompts youth to suicide
B.L. Manocha

ALKA (not her real name) was just a school-going girl of 13. She liked girls with short hair . She abhorred long hair. One evening, she expressed before her mother her disgust for her long hair and pleaded for getting it cut. But her plea was not accepted. After a few minutes, the mother went to a neighbour’s house for a routine chat. On her return, she found that Alka had hung herself to death from a ceiling fan. The police was informed. Investigations showed no bruise or injury on Alka’s body. Nor was there any written note left by her. The police declared it to be a case of suicide.

Psychologists have identified 15 fundamental desires-cum-values which propel a human being to act in a certain way. The desire to live tops the list. The right to live is also a fundamental legal right of every human being in every civilised society.


Suicide by a teenager is a desperate and hasty step. All aspects of the act are not considered. The person concerned is suddenly affected by a single distressing idea. There is total blackout of other thoughts. The youngster sees the dark, darker and darkest aspects of the perceived situation.

Amongst many useful tips by Mahatma Gandhi regarding the truths of life, one runs thus: "Human life is a series of compromises... my own life is made up of many compromises." In the case of Alka, this fact was never told to her. Even many parents are unaware of this fact. Some who realise it through personal experience/s or otherwise, fail to communicate it to their children.

Alka was a victim of such failure. Getting a hair-cut is not the fundamental issue. It was the blunt and tough "no" from Alka’s mother without any explanation or reasoning that precipitated the sad, suicidal act.

Teenage love also sometimes ends in suicide. Such love, though blind and deaf, is undoubtedly a fundamental driving force. The difficulty arises when a loving couple declares its intent to marry despite disparities in wealth, upbringing, present position, rank or status in society, caste or religion. Family tradition can appear as a single obstacle by itself. "We must marry, otherwise we will commit suicide" they resolve and vow.

No doubt, scriptures contain and prescribe deterrents against suicides. There is convincing evidence that after death, the souls/spirits are genderless. So feelings of love and marriage are neither probable nor possible. Yet the youth think that if they can’t marry in this world, they will do so in the next. What misplaced thinking!

The Bible defines contours of love. "Love is very patient and kind, never jealous, never boastful or proud, never haughty or selfish or rude. Love does not demand its own way." Wherein lies the scope of suicide in the light of the above exposition?

There is yet another way to prevent the youth from killing themselves. The parents should realise the wisdom of Mahatma Gandhi’s words regarding "compromises in life". This would also save the lives of some happily married husbands and wives who do not commit suicide despite parental resistance, but their uncompromising parents ‘kill’ them! "Live and let live", said Acharya Vinoba Bhave.

Some teenagers kill themselves if they fail in an examination. This is because their parents expect miracles beyond the capabilities of the children. In other words, they die because of the high ambitions of their parents!

Is it possible to spot out youth who are prone to suicide? To some extent, yes. Those who hold rigid views but rarely discuss them with others, shun company and/or games, and can’t tolerate music and/or jokes. Genderwise, the incidence of suicides is more among girls than among boys. Also, the youth of affluent families outnumber those of poor families in taking this drastic step.

Last, but not the least, the youth must also know that any attempt to commit suicide is a criminal offence punishable with rigorous imprisonment.