Why do children commit suicide and how to protect them?

03 February 2021 | 12:00 | Children

Last year, a sharp increase in the number of suicides among children and adolescents was recorded in St. Petersburg. If in 2019 the Investigative Committee registered three such cases, then in 2020, according to the child rights ombudsman in the northern capital Anna Mityanina, 16 minors have already been brought together. “Dialogue” discussed why this is happening and how parents and the state can prevent the death of children.

Who is guilty

What pushes teenagers goodbye to life is not an easy question. According to Valentina Yakovenko, deputy head physician of the Mnukhin Children’s Psychiatry Center, Valentina Yakovenko, this decision is influenced by relations with others, the situation at school, and, of course, the psychological characteristics of the child.

In adolescence, the psychiatrist explains, children have a high propensity to imitate: for example, they may love a literary character or movie hero and strive to copy all his actions (even if it is suicide). Another psychological feature of the young generation: the desire to do the opposite, contrary to the recommendations of adults, and try what parents call “bad” or “forbidden”.

“It should also be noted that in the modern world, children in pre-adolescence and adolescence have not yet formed an idea of ​​death as an irreversible process. Life expectancy in the country is growing, grandparents live to a ripe old age, so children in most cases do not face the fact of death in person. In addition, we are very sensitive to our younger generation – children are not taken to say goodbye to the deceased, they are not taken to the cemetery. And therefore death in reality does not seem dangerous to them, ”explains Valentina Yakovenko.

These factors, as the expert emphasizes, make it easier for a teenager to make a decision about suicide. At the same time, the most common reason for suicidal behavior, according to the ombudsman for the rights of the child in St. Petersburg Anna Mityanina, is family difficulties and conflicts with parents.

“When we interview children who are thinking about suicide, they almost all repeat the same phrase:“ Nobody needs us. ” This suggests that the condition of their families leaves much to be desired: there is no normal emotional contact and trusting relationship with their parents. In addition, as part of the pandemic, many are losing their jobs, dads and moms become nervous, the number of quarrels and domestic conflicts is increasing. And all this influences children – after all, they are the same people, but because of their age they feel and experience everything much more strongly, ”agrees the coordinator of the“ Youth Security Service ”project Leonid Armer.

All ages are submissive: how to determine if a child is depressed and how to help him

The second most popular reason for childhood suicides is school problems: overload during training, fears of passing an exam, or, for example, conflicts with a teacher. For adults, these situations may seem mere trifles, but for children, according to Anna Mityanina, this may well become a reason to doubt the expediency of life.

In addition, conflicts with peers, unrequited love, acute traumas and undiagnosed serious psychiatric illnesses lead to a large number of tragedies.

But experts are in no hurry to attribute suicidal games that exist on the Internet to the reasons why teenagers decide to take their own lives. Leonid Armer, the coordinator of the Youth Security Service project, explains: usually children join such “entertainment” only if they have already had suicidal thoughts for a long time.

“By themselves, suicidal games have almost never been and are not the cause of suicide in children. Yes, unfortunately, there may be a certain strengthening of some tendencies that the child had before he came into the game. But children who are already prepared for suicidal themes come to games, ”the expert emphasizes.

According to Leonid Armer, there is also no direct connection between suicides and the influence of the Internet on children, because the “starting point” of suicides lies not in the World Wide Web, but in situations that a teenager encounters in real life. This conclusion, as the specialist notes, was also reached by the psychologists of St. Petersburg State University in the 2018 study, who analyzed more than 200 criminal cases of suicide. But the ombudsman for the rights of the child in St. Petersburg Anna Mityanina agrees with this point of view only partially.

“Of course, movies, social media, anime can be blamed for everything, although this is not the root cause. Still, kids on the internet are a scary mix. It turns out that the guys – due to the lack of a proper culture of working on the Internet – do not form a clear understanding of the personal and the public. As a result, there is a massive publication of personal data, and, alas, this also leads to the consequences that we are talking about, ”the specialist explains.

What to do

According to experts, it is impossible to draw up a single and universal psychological portrait of a child prone to suicidal behavior and belonging to the so-called “death groups”. Nevertheless, as Anna Mityanina notes, there are several alarming “bells” that can help parents recognize the problem in time.

So, a teenager may have suicidal thoughts if he:

  • often speaks directly or indirectly about the desire to die;
  • is constantly in a bad, depressed mood, and he cannot be pulled out of such a state by any entertainment;
  • as if summing up the results and saying goodbye to loved ones, as if before a long separation;
  • easily part with things dear to him, as well as money;
  • shows interest in unreasonably risky actions (for example, likes to jump out onto the road in front of moving cars);
  • became indifferent to his appearance.

If, moreover, strange fresh cuts began to appear on the child’s body, this is a reason to think whether he is in a suicidal game, draws attention to Leonid Armer.

“In most of these games, tasks are associated with self-harm, that is, if a teenager did not have any cuts before, then they will most likely appear on his body. Recommendation: check for both boys and girls not only arms, but also legs, shoulders, and so on (anything that can be hidden by clothes). Because now children are leaving their hands intact, precisely so that parents do not find that they are self-harming, ”says Armer.

At the same time, in order to protect children from such dangers and fatal actions, experts, first of all, advise to form trusting relationships in the family: communicate with the teenager more often, help him in solving any problems, listen, support and in no case brush it off.

The next step in the prevention of child suicides, according to the child rights ombudsman Anna Mityanina, is the competent organization of leisure: participation in various circles, sections and creative activities that would be interesting to the teenager and protect him from unsafe entertainment.

Experts also see the salvation of children in the prohibition of violent content, to which, in particular, the Japanese anime “Death Note” and “Tokyo Ghoul” were recently attributed. Since these works have already provoked children to commit suicide, they should not be in the public domain, says Anna Mityanina.

As an example, she cites a recent case in the Primorsky District: there, on January 12, 2021, a sixth grader fell out of the window of the fourth floor of a local school (fortunately, the boy survived). According to preliminary information from the investigation, he was a fan of Death Note and tried to repeat the action of the character from the anime.

However, it is not enough just to ban content that threatens children – it is necessary that this does not turn from a protection measure into a PR campaign for another cruel product, emphasizes the director of Lyceum No. 369, a member of the regional headquarters of the All-Russia People’s Front in St. Petersburg, Konstantin Tkhostov.

“We understand very well that banned sites, content and resources are closed every day. These are absolutely working things and the media do not need to make a news feed out of this. If we create some kind of PR campaign about the closure of an anime that caused suicide – what then? We will multiply tenfold the number of suicides associated with viewing or not being able to view these resources! This will just provoke the same interest, which is determined by the proverb “the forbidden fruit is sweet”, – explains the speaker.

Another threat that experts see in relation to illegal content is the possibility of endless broadcasting of each of the prohibited products on dozens of new platforms under changed names and from many different accounts. That is why, according to experts, it is necessary to tighten responsibility before the law for those who distribute such content or otherwise provoke teenagers to commit suicide.

“Tightening the existing legislation to involve children in areas that threaten their life and health is a necessity today, because we will not solve the problem by working with parents and schools alone, and the legislation exists for that in order to respond clearly to those challenges that pose a threat to the entire society, ”concludes Konstantin Tkhostov.

Prepared by Evgeniya Chupova / IA “Dialogue”

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