How can we prevent suicide in girls and boys?

Violence, difficulty socializing and grief and loss in the process due to the death of loved ones are factors that seriously affect the mental health of many people, including children and adolescents.

Suicide is a public health problem that results in tragedy for families and society. It is among the four leading causes of death worldwide for people aged 15 to 19, and it is estimated that a girl, boy or adolescent takes their own life every 11 minutes each year. In addition, according to the National Health and Nutrition Survey (ENSANUT) implemented in 2018, in Mexico 5% of the population over the age of 10 declared that they had ever thought about suicide.

Most seriously, these figures are usually underrepresented due to the cultural perspective on the topic of suicide, as it is sometimes not reported due to shame, guilt or fear of “what they will say”. However, it is important to recognize what myths exist around you to determine when a loved one is at risk of suicide, especially if they are a girl, boy or teenager.

1. Myth: Anyone who says they’re going to kill themselves doesn’t

Reality: People who are thinking about suicide usually find a way to communicate their pain to others, often indirectly by talking about their intentions and whether they are likely to carry out the act.

2. Myth: Those who attempt suicide don’t want to die, they’re just trying to “get attention”

Reality: Although not all who attempt suicide wish to die and are conflicted about this wish—that is, they wish to die if their life continues as it is and to live if small changes occur in it—it is a mistake to believes that they try to “attract attention” because they are people who suffer and find no other alternatives than to attempt their lives.

3. Myth: Only professionals can help a person with a suicidal crisis

You don’t have to be a specialist to help someone who is having suicidal thoughts. Most suicidal people are honest and relieved to be asked about their feelings and intentions; this may be the first step in helping them choose to live, although it is always best to see a specialist.

4. Girls and boys don’t kill themselves

Children and adolescents are killing themselves and this number is increasing.

What can we do?

Suicide can be prevented as long as we identify it in time. In the case of children and adolescents, it is essential to promote a loving upbringing and pay attention to the following points:

1. See. We are very likely to find warning signs and risk factors that surround girls and boys to commit a suicidal act. Some of these may be previous suicide attempts, stress, anxiety, domestic violence, isolation, mental disorders, experiencing sexual violence or bullying.

2. Strengthening our support networks and sense of community. Let’s foster a safe environment of acceptance, prevention, and unconditional love, as protective risk factors emanate from the family core that help reduce or increase suicide.

3. Report and treat. To achieve a culture of prevention, it is important to talk about the topic in educational and family spaces; Detecting it in time will help us take the necessary actions to identify what is causing pain, suffering and sadness.

4. Train. Prevention practices must start in places where boys and girls receive their first learning processes, for this reason it is key that training takes place in educational spaces and that teachers have tools to identify the level of risk and guide mothers, fathers and caregivers for measures focused on parenting with tenderness and protection.

help lines

If you know someone going through a difficult time, call the CONADIC LINE OF LIFE toll-free at 800-911-2000, which is open 24 hours a day, 365 days a year nationwide; There you will be visited by a specialist and they will give you information about specialized treatment centers.

You can also contact or write in the TRUST CHAT of the Civic Council, which through ¡Yes to Life! offers a free psychological service 24 hours a day, 365 days a year throughout the country; his phone number is: 55-5533-5533.

Mental health affects us all!

* Laila Sabagh is Head of the HEART Program at Save the Children (@SaveChildrenMx), an independent organization that is a leader in promoting and protecting the rights of children and adolescents. It works in more than 120 countries, dealing with emergencies and development programmes. Help boys and girls achieve healthy and safe childhoods. In Mexico, it has been working since 1973 with programs for health and nutrition, education, child protection and the protection of the rights of children and adolescents within the framework of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Visit our page and our social networks: Facebook: @SavetheChildrenMexico, Twitter: @SaveChildrenMx, Instagram: @savethechildren_mx.

References:

Gunnell, David; Appleby, Louis; Arensman, Ella; Houghton, Keith; John, Anne; Kapur, Nav; et. to. (2020). Suicide risk and prevention during the COVID-19 pandemic. May 24, from The Lancet. Available here.

INEGI. (2021) Press Release No. 520/21 Statistics for World Suicide Prevention Day. available here.

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