TO OUR DEAR YOUNG ONES: THERE’S HELP, DON’T DO IT
On the fateful night of March 18, a 16-year-old girl took her own life at Lower Magsaysay in Baguio City.
This young student is now part of a pattern among the youth succumbing to depression or mental illness and serves as a wake-up call for every local government to strengthen their mental health support systems so as to save would-be suicide victims.
Adding to the grief of this tragic incident was the irresponsible sharing of videos, photos and sensitive details of the case on social media.
An earlier incident of an attempted suicide involving a young adult along Bonifacio Street that was also widely circulated on social media might have aggravated the situation of the would-be suicide victims who came across the information.
Over the years, this has been a great challenge to mental health experts, including the World Health Organization, as studies show that such suggestive visuals can have a persuasive power over would-be suicide victims to finally take their own lives.
Before the advent of social media, journalists in the mainstream media observed extreme caution when reporting cases of death by suicide to protect would-be victims from becoming actual victims of this global social and mental health issue.
Traditional media has been cautious in reporting details of suicides such as showing suicide notes of the victims, including the circumstances that led to such incident and how one ended his life.
But those hungry for likes and shares have broken this long-time practice by sharing sensitive photographs and videos of suicide incidents just to gain more followers on social media platforms.
We then call on every citizen to be part of a global advocacy to prevent suicide cases by not taking part in the irresponsible sharing of photographs or videos of deaths by suicide.
The WHO has stated that every suicide is a tragedy that affects families, communities, and entire countries and has long-lasting effects on the people left behind. While suicide tendencies occur throughout a lifespan, among the youth aged 15 to 29 years old, it was the fourth leading cause of death globally in 2019.
So, who are at risk?
According to the WHO, many cases of death by suicide happen impulsively in moments of crisis with a breakdown in the ability to deal with life stresses, such as financial problems, relationship break-ups or chronic pain and illness.
In addition, experiencing conflict, disaster, violence, abuse, or loss and a sense of isolation are strongly associated with suicidal behavior. Suicide rates are also high among vulnerable groups that experience discrimination, such as refugees and migrants, indigenous peoples, lesbians, gays, bisexual, transgender, intersex persons, and prisoners.
More worrisome is the increasing cases of death by suicide among the youth and young adults not only in the Cordillera but also the rest of the country.
Earlier this year, the Department of Education reported it has recorded around 404 young students in various parts of the country who took their own lives while 2,200 others attempted to end their lives during academic year 2021-2022.
DepEd reported further that a total of 775,962 public school students have sought the assistance of guidance counselors during the same period, of which about 8,000 of those cases involved bullying.
It doesn’t end with that.
The Global School-based Student Health Survey, a collaborative surveillance project supported by WHO, reported an uptrend in suicidal thoughts among 13 to 17 years old students in the country.
In this ever complex society, suicide cases will surely be in the uptrend, but this can be prevented with timely, evidenced-based intervention such as empowering every guidance counselor office in all schools nationwide.
Mental health crisis hotlines must also be available especially in social media being the most available and accessible medium of information among people from all walks of life, including those in the countryside.
In coordination with mental health experts, legislators also need to revisit the Mental Health Act to introduce revisions to make it more responsive to the demands of time.
With majority of Filipinos being Facebook users, we also call on lobby groups to call on social media platforms to improve their regulations concerning suicide incidents, and be more aggressive in promoting mental health awareness.
Meantime, we call on every parent, sibling, and friend to reach out to someone they might know suffering from mental health issues and illnesses, especially among our children.
The African proverb that says: “It takes a village to raise a child,” becomes even more significant in this ever complex period.