‘Do more to stop teen suicide’

  • Indonesia
  • Saturday, 15 Feb 2020

JAKARTA: News of a tragic incident at a high school in Cibubur, East Jakarta, last month has thrust the issue of teen suicide into the spotlight – a topic rarely discussed by the public or in schools.

A student reportedly jumped from the fourth floor of the school building and was rushed to hospital, but passed away two days later.

Indonesian Child Protection Commission (KPAI) commissioner Retno Listyarti said it was not the first case of reported student suicide in Jakarta, citing a suspected suicide at a high school in Pademangan, North Jakarta, three months earlier.

A 2018 study by Nova Riyanti Yusuf from the Asian Federation of Psychiatric Associations found that 5% of high school students in Jakarta had suicidal thoughts and 3% had tried to commit suicide.

“It’s a very serious problem that needs to be solved immediately. We need to take action to reduce the teen suicide rate,” Retno said.

There is a lack of early detection and early intervention for the prevention of youth suicide within schools, as well as a lack of support systems for students to discuss their problems and seek the help they need, according to experts.

Nova said school counsellors should be at the forefront of preventing student suicide. But most school counsellors only focus on advising students about their future careers rather than mental health.

“One of my patients told me that her friend (a student) was sexually harassed by a teacher. But when the person told the school counsellor about the incident, the counsellor brushed her off,” Nova said.

While schools are supposed to be a safe space for children to learn, her research showed that schools had instead become a “negative stressor” for students and that many were even found to have inflicted self-harm at school.

In her research, she found that perceived burdensomeness and lack of belonging, as well as feelings of loneliness and hopelessness were some factors that caused students to have suicidal thoughts.

“Many students also said they felt disappointed as they thought their achievements fell short of their expectations. Other reasons include bullying and verbal and physical abuse,” she said.

Child and family psychologist Anna Surti Ariani said teenagers were especially susceptible to depression and self-harm.

“In teenagers, the part of the brain that processes emotions has already fully developed but the part of the brain that processes rational thinking has not, resulting in impulsive ways of thinking.

“Changes in their hormones is also a contributing factor to their unstable emotions,” Anna said.

Data from the World Health Organization showed that suicide was the second leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 29 last year.

Retno called on the Jakarta Education Agency to train teachers and school authorities to recognise students with suicidal thoughts.

She also recommended that schools employ in-house psychologists to better support early detection and intervention. — The Jakarta Post/ANN

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