Death of innocence

There are an increasing number of youngsters in our country who will never receive their identity cards, never experience the thrill of drawing their first salary or the excitement of marriage or fatherhood. Not many will tell the full tale because in our society, suicides are covered up due to religious and cultural reasons. But the evidence that does exist indicates that the rate of despondency is so high in our country that it is affecting even the very young. At a time when optimism and exuberance should define their lives, they have nothing to look forward to.

Over the last four days, according to a shocking report in this newspaper, four teenage and pre-teenage boys took their own lives.Khursheed, 18, a student at the Islamabad Model College for Boys shot himself after being scolded by his father over some entry tests he had refused to sit for. In a similar incident a day earlier, Shan, 17, from Gharibabad killed himself after being asked by his parents not to spend time with friends. A grade seven student in Abbottabad chose to end his life rather than return to a hostel where he was reportedly ill-treated by staff, while according to a somewhat hazy report from Karachi, a 13-year-old took his life, possibly after failing his exams. The details are frightening. On the surface, these issues seem to be petty. Many of us have faced similar conflicts with parents though they are eventually washed away with time. That this was not the case for these children, who were ready to commit suicide, is terrifying — an act which is extraordinarily difficult in emotional terms even for adults. The HRCP report for this year also reports increased suicide amongst young girls.

So, what is happening? The issue needs to be explored, not ignored. We do not know how many more deaths of a similar nature have occurred. Is the despondency and desperation of people sinking down to children? Are they picking up on the emotional and social anxieties of their parents? Certainly, this appears to be the case. Action is required to face up to the problem by providing — or exercising the use of existing — helplines to teenagers in need of support.

Published in The Express Tribune, June 1st, 2012.

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