Nepal | May 26, 2020

216 minors took own lives this fiscal

Sabitri Dhakal
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Kathmandu, July 4

It was a regular Saturday for Devi Prasad Poudel of Kathmandu, on June 29. He had lunch with his wife and 16-year-old daughter, Sadikshya. After lunch, his wife was occupied with domestic chores and Sadikshya left for her room. Poudel left home to attend to a business.

Later in the afternoon, Sadikshya’s mother felt eerie silence in her home. That was when she went to check on her daughter. What she saw after opening the door left her frozen in shock and disbelief. Her child was dead! Sadikshya had committed suicide by hanging.

Sadikshya was not an introvert. She was good at public speaking and had interest in music, dance and acting, according to Poudel. But results of the Secondary Education Examination were published on June 27 had dampened her spirit.

“She was hoping to secure A+ but had scored A,” Poudel said. “We had consoled her saying that her grade was okay.” It is has not been confirmed if the SEE grade had prompted her suicide as police are still trying to find out the cause of the suicide.

A day before Sadikshya took her own life, Samir Lungwa, an 11-year-old boy from Lalitpur Bagmati-2, Malta, had also committed suicide. In a suicide note, Samir wrote that he had felt neglected by his parents, brother and teachers.

Sadikshya and Samir are two of the 216 children across Nepal, who committed suicide in the first nine months of the current fiscal from mid-July 2018 to mid-April 2019. Of the children (people below 18) who committed suicide this year, almost 64 per cent, or 138, were girls and 78 were boys, according to Nepal Police. Most of them, 80.6 per cent had committed suicide by hanging themselves. Other causes of suicide were poison consumption, setting oneself ablaze and drowning.

Children who committed suicide account for 5.5 per cent of the total suicides recorded this fiscal year. Suicide is an outcome of depression, according to Arun Raj Kunwar, child and adolescent psychiatrist at Kanti Children’s Hospital. “Children get depressed when their parents demand higher grades, when they are continuously bullied or face discrimination, when they have to deal with chronic health problems or when they face relationship issues,” Kunwar said.

These days, children even take their own lives if their demand for material goods is not met or if parents disapprove their friendship with someone, according to Neena Rai, assistant professor at the Department of Psychiatry, KIST Medical College.

“These may sound like petty reasons to commit suicide, but there are children who feel ignored when they face rejection from parents. This can cause stress and depression in them,” said Kunwar.

Many parents in Nepal are not aware that children too can become victims of depression, according to Kunwar. Worse, many parents think depression is a severe mental disorder. So, many children do not even report their depressive state. This is what compounds the problem, according to Kunwar.

Children who are depressed may express feelings of hopelessness, display rage and mood swings, increase consumption of alcohol or drugs, show anxiety, act recklessly, and withdraw from family, friends and social circles. They may also lose self-esteem and self-confidence.

“If parents and teachers notice these behavioural changes, they must seek help,” according to Rai.  Kanti Children Hospital is one such place where help can be sought. It offers 24-hour helpline service for troubled children. “We provide counselling service to children from our helpline. We also reach out to parents and tell them to immediately take their children to nearby health centres that offer mental health service if the counselling doesn’t work,” said Ram Pukar Shah, consultant psychologist at the hospital. The hospital gets an average of two calls a day on its helpline from children facing depression. The hospital’s Child and Adolescent Psychiatry Out Patient Department also receives around 30 child patients facing mental health problems, such as depression, on a daily basis.

There are particular occasions when child suicide rate jumps. Many children commit suicide right after SEE results are published. Child suicide rate also increases during the crop plantation season when pesticides and insecticides are stored in houses.“Parents should be careful during these times,” said Kunwar.

 


A version of this article appears in print on July 05, 2019 of The Himalayan Times.


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