Student suicides a worrying trend that needs to be addressed

Image from British Psychological Society

By John Isaac

Just today a 17-year-old girl jumped off the fourth floor of her school building, while two days ago, a 13-year-old boy threatened to commit suicide.

The boy was apparently upset because he was placed in the last class after failing a basic computer test at a school in Bukit Mertajam.

According to reports, the boy's father said his son was removed from the class he was in and made to enter what he claimed as the last class for Form 1 students in the school after taking the test.

The father said his son had obtained 3As, 1B and 1C for his Standard 6 Ujian Pencapaian Sekolah Rendah (UPSR) examination last year and based on that, he was initially placed in the second class for Form 1 students.

"Previously, the teacher at his primary school told us our son would be placed in the top class when he enters this secondary school based on his UPSR results which were quite good.

"As soon as we registered him in this secondary school, he was placed in the second class. Later on, the management told him to take a basic computer test," the father said when contacted.

He added that being switched to the last class made his son feel humiliated and unhappy.

This brings to light several issues.

Firstly, are we, as parents placing too many expectations on our children, are children these days burdened with too many high expectations and are there flaws in our education system that need to be fixed?

According to a child psychologist from a volunteer organisation, they deal with a high number of cases involving students, mostly teenagers who feel they are going through depression.

The main cause of this, he said, was that these students placed too much expectations on themselves, coupled with the pressure from their parents.

Also, he said there was stiff competition among the students themselves as to who would excel.

"There are also numerous groups in schools. Those that are popular, smart and well liked, while there are those who are regarded as the losers.

"I realise this kind of thing is especially prevalent in international schools," he said.

A parent revealed that his teenage son who studies in a government school was almost driven to suicide because he was constantly bullied by his seniors.

Though these issues may sound trivial to most, they are certainly not.

High expectations, bullying and wanting to be in the "in group" are issues that require urgent attention.

Maybe back in those days, these issues were not so critical, but for the current generation, they seem to be facing a whole new challenge which we, as parents need to understand.

Close monitoring and the slightest behavioural changes should trigger alarm bells and we must be constantly on the ball.

According to reports from volunteer groups, close monitoring of our child's behavioural pattern is the best way to detect any signs of depression.

Depression and stress if not detected and addressed early can lead to numerous complications, including suicide.

"Do not be ashamed. If your child is going through depression ... seek help.

"Depression is nothing to be ashamed about and is certainly not some kind of sexual disease as some parents may think," said the child psychologist.

It is something which is prevalent these days and can be treated, he added.