In 2011, according to the Office of National Statistics, there were overall 194 cases of death through suicide in the age group 15-19. 134 of these people were male, whereas the other 60 were female. These statistics may not even have been that reliable as some researchers believe that due to the nature of the coronal system what is and isn’t defined as a suicide, could lead to under reporting. In our society and societies across the world there is a general taboo that surrounds suicide – possibly generating from the time when suicide was a criminal offence. Similarly, it could be due to that the coroner believes that there is not enough evidence to prove that suicide was the cause of death. Whilst in the UK, this is being combated the total number of suicides per year will always be something elusive to researchers.
With the rates of suicide being so high, particularly in young people and adolescents, it is left for researches and psychologists to wonder; why? Some people believe that it is due to the fact that the media are constantly feeding children, adolescents and teenagers images showing how were are meant to look, sound and be, and led to believe that this is the foundation to happy life; when in reality happiness is subjective to people and can be found in many different places and ways. It is through the media and tradition that teenagers believed that happiness is attached to what they have and look like rather than what they do, or achieve.
However, it is also worth questioning: what are teenagers expected to achieve in their day to day activities? In our school, at the GCSE age, it is expected of us to spend at least 2-3 hours on homework a night, have eight hours of sleep, a healthy diet and a social life. Assuming that the average student gets home at about 4 o’clock, and goes to sleep at the latest of 11 o’clock in order to maintain a health eight hours of sleep, which leaves six hours in the evening to get everything done. Three of these hours, maximum, are spent on homework – as long as there are no distractions – at least one hour is spent trying to eat and bathing. It is also expected to have at least one extracurricular activity, which is another hour gone. This is a total of five hours, but again isn’t always accurate as harder subjects such as creative arts can be more stressful on a student, requiring more hours to be spent on working, and even worrying about their grades.
All of this mounting pressure is bound to cause issues amongst young people, who often succumb to depression and even self-harm as a way to express themselves and deal with this stress. Again in our school, the average expected grades is an A, which many girls feel is too high for them to achieve; whether this be to their own insecurities or consistently lower grades. These insecurities, if not dealt with in the correct manner can manifest into a total feeling of worthlessness. Though, it is sad that people then again do not also know how to correctly deal with depression and self-harm; it seems that some people do not even consider depression to be an illness and a lot of tactics then lead to even more guilt amongst the harmer.
Statistics say that 1 in 8 adolescents suffer from depression, and in 2011 31% of the total numbers of suicides that year were committed by 15 to 19 year olds. Most of this depression and suicidal behaviour is noticed by teachers, though often left unsaid due to the student feeling alone and not wishing to talk about their issues. It is often due to this secrecy, that the problem often gets worse; symptoms of clinical depression include: continuous low mood or sadness, feeling hopeless and helpless, having low self-esteem, feeling tearful, feeling guilt-ridden, feeling irritable and intolerant of others, having no motivation or interest in things, finding it difficult to make decisions, not getting any enjoyment out of life, feeling anxious or worried, having suicidal thoughts or thoughts of harming yourself. Thus this limits the motivation children have to complete their homework, often meaning that they fall into more trouble and only make their depression worse as teachers may not be aware of personal emotional issues or how their words may affect students.
A way I think that as a school, teachers should work to be more observant of the noticeable signs of self-harm and depression, perhaps approaching students in private, hoping to understand them rather than jumping to conclusions and not necessarily alerting parents of issues that have been noticed, as often there is a reason why cases of depression in adolescents get unreported. Often teenagers feel reluctant to talk about their problems, even not wanting to admit there is a problem in the first place, or also not wanting to worry people – or having the feeling of being constantly checked on and watched, because though parents or adults may be worried, privacy is important to teenagers and it is a symbol of trust. It would also be productive to try and encourage students to speak out about their own emotions and feelings, because being depressed is something that you can deal with if only the issue is known about, and not bottled up inside.
By Phoebe, Y10