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What's Driving Indian Youth to Suicide & Self-Harm

"Nobody understands me. I don't have anyone to talk to. What will people think of me? I cannot face the world! What is there to even live for? I feel like dying," are some words left unsaid but echoed in every young heart. We are growing social by the day, with a new social media platform ever so often; nonetheless, our youth is becoming lonelier and forlorn. Projecting a false, enviable image on their social media handles has earned them followers but left an entire generation disillusioned, superficial, and purposeless. It's no wonder they find themselves ensnared among wrong relations, addictions, anxiety, and depression.

Broken education systems, deficient parenting, unemployment, overburdened schedules, and inflated ambitions only exacerbate the stress of our youth. Unguided and neglected teens with their callow minds find themselves stuck in the wrong loops, and as they grow and life further complicates, they look for an escape which often comes in the form of self-harm and suicide. Every hour a student commits suicide in India, as per the National Crime Records Bureau (NCRB). 60,000 youth in the age group 15-24 succumb to death by harming themselves; self-harm is also the most significant cause of disabilities among youth. Where does that leave our nation?

Image: Mental Health Foundation UK

Nearly 8,00,000 people die by suicide worldwide each year, of that 17% are Indians. Despite the nation's growth and development, mental health remains to be a taboo. This long-stretched stigma engulfing mental health encumbers the endurer from seeking help, and as a result, they keep agonizing alone. Branding the sufferers cowards or attention-seekers impacts them in ways we cannot think about. To better their lives and combat these challenges, we all must accept mental problems as any other ailment of the heart or gut. Only once we broaden our minds will we be receptive to these issues and enabled to look for solutions. As we have spread awareness for sanitation or cancer, so must we propagate mental health.

Image: Children's Health

Up until 2018, suicide was a criminal offense in our nation, and the law was penalizing victims instead of recompensing them. Mental Healthcare Act, 2017 decriminalized attempted suicide and aims to safeguard the rights of people with any mental illness. Though delayed, a step in the right direction has been taken, and the road ahead isn't easy, so we must all tread together. Self-harm, anxiety, and depression have long been dismissed and overlooked, which further drives the already neglected and misunderstood youth into the abyss. As a child undergoes changes and development, parents must adapt themselves into roles that agree with their child. Excessive coddling or controlling will not do children any good; overbearing parents must learn to allow their children space while also being approachable.

Reformation is the need of the hour in education systems as well; schools and colleges must provide a healthy, growing environment instead of a competitive, stressful one. The curriculum must include relevant issues and impart awareness; teachers should inculcate values and guide young minds instead of dragging old syllabi or enforcing intensive studying. While we revolutionize right and left, without empowering the youth and building their mental strength, an absolute change cannot be achieved. What ails one's mind robs one's ability to think and act right, which is why help must be readily available, and we must all strive to become the advocates of mental health, the exemplars our friends in trouble can look up to.

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