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Suicides by children and teenagers are Russia’s nightmare. Their rate is the highest in Europe. Experts say adults’ indifference and the Internet are to blame.
“The Russian Federation today holds Europe’s first place as to the number of child and teenager suicides. Over the past few years the number of minors who have taken their own lives or made such attempts has grown by 35-37 percent,” says the official website of the consumer rights agency Rospotrebnadzor.
According to the agency the country sees 19–20 suicides per 100,000 teenagers a year, which is thrice the world average. For instance, in 2009 1,379 young men and 369 young women aged 15 to 19 committed suicide (the watchdog has not yet published more recent statistics). Per one suicide there are up to two hundred failed suicide attempts.
In Russia, teenagers and young people aged 15 to 35 commit suicides most often, and every year one in twelve teenagers aged 15–19 tries to take one’s life.
It has been established that only ten percent of teenagers who have committed suicide really wanted to die. In 90 percent of cases it is ‘plea for help.’ Ever more often one can observe such a phenomenon as “mass suicide” – cases in which several people decide to take the fatal step together.
A wave of teenage suicides swept Russia a year ago. There was literally no week without reports about children who had voluntarily killed themselves. A very terrible record was set at the end of February, when five teenage suicides were reported on one day. The children’s rights ombudsman asked the mass media not to put too much emphasis on this theme.
According to Russia’s Investigative Committee, in 2010 the country saw 798 cases of suicides by persons under age, in 2011, 896, and in the first half of 2012, 532.
This year reports of children’s and teenage suicides have kept coming in.
The reasons behind the despair that pushes youngsters to take the fatal decision include unshared love, conflicts with parents and age-mates, fear of the future, and loneliness, Rospotrebnadzor head, Russia’s chief sanitary doctor Gennady Onishchenko told Rossiiskaya Gazeta in an interview. Graduates from orphanages and boarding schools resort to suicides most often.
What makes the situation still worse, both very young children and teenagers, while surfing the net, can come across information that may prompt them take the most desperate step in their life. Some Internet sites look like suicide manuals, and access to them is absolutely free.
“We began to deal with the problem of child and teenage suicides starting from the end of last year under a resolution of the Russian government, and we discovered over a thousand such sites,” Onishchenko said.
On November 1 last year amendments were effected to the federal law On Information, Information Technologies and Protection of Information envisaging creation of a black list of sites under the law On the Protection of Children from Information Harmful to their Health.
From November 1, 2012 to March 11, 2013 Rospotrebnadzor’s hotline got 1,208 messages marked as ‘suicide’. The messages were examined and 1,087 decisions made to close down sites containing information about ways of committing suicides and (or) calls for committing suicides (88 percent of all decisions made). In 121 cases it was decided that sites contained no prohibited information, and 528 pages with prohibited information were eliminated.
The most widely spread type of prohibited information is mention of various ways of committing suicides (including the most sophisticated ones) with a detailed description of the process.
The deputy president of the fund No to Drug Addiction and Alcoholism, Nodar Khanashvili, is quoted by the on-line daily Gazeta.Ru as saying that teenagers who come across suicide-related information are vulnerable to the effect of doing it by analogy. At the same time suicides as such are one of the forms of reaction to the external environment, to external aggression.
The chief of the Center for Psychological Assistance in Emergencies, Mikhail Vinogradov, agrees that the Internet bears its share of responsibility for the surge in child suicides. “In the social networks and on websites there is a great number of “suicide clubs,” which keep persuading youngsters, in particular, teenage girls, their lives are not worth living.”
Problem families are another great problem. Quarrels, family violence and other disorders cannot but harm child mentality.
“Globally speaking, the state has turned its back on children, leaving them at the mercy of their parents or utterly unattended. Whatever bad things some may now say about the USSR, that country had a very well considered state-run youth policy,” the expert says. “It just takes loving a child, loving from the very moment of birth. The child is to enjoy attention, to be taught to trust. Then even adverse external interventions would not cause so harmful effects.”
The users of the popular social network Odnoklassniki.ru have arrived at the same conclusion. These days, say some participants in the discussion, many parents believe that the child’s basic needs are confined to having good clothes and footwear and normal meals and going to a pre-school center or school. However, the child needs permanent contact and love.
The users of the social network offered a very simple formula against child suicide – the child is to be loved, hugged and kissed as often as possible. If surrounded by love and care and given a chance to feel constant emotional bonds, the child will be growing up normally and behaving adequately, they say with certainty.