Teen suicides in Russia: Generation lost

The number of suicides involving children in Russia is growing at an alarming rate. The government has distanced itself from the solution of this problem. When a teen commits suicide, their family is left alone with the tragedy. Meanwhile, there are real measures that may help if not to defeat the evil completely, but at least reduce the number of suicides.

One of the recent tragic events is a suicide of a 14-year-old boy in the city of Perm, Russia. He jumped off the roof of a 10-storey building because of the death of his beloved character of an anime series. No one knows how many teenagers are considering death at this very moment and how many will dare to take this step. At a hearing of the Public Chamber on the issue of suicides involving children it was stated that 10 percent of children are in urgent need of psychological help. But these are very approximate numbers.

According to the Investigative Committee of the Russian Federation, the number of suicides among children and adolescents is increasing at an alarming rate. In 2008 there were 572 cases, in 2010 - 798, in 2011 - 896, and in the first half of 2012 - already 532. In each case there is a particular reason that might seem frivolous to an outsider, like the death of an anime character. But it is clear that it only triggered the tragedy.

The leader of the center of the legal and psychological assistance in emergency situations Mikhail Vinogradov described global causes of the trend: "We have broken the old system, but have not built anything new. We live in a fragmented country and have bee criticizing ourselves for the last 20 years. As a result, we've lost several generations."

Before, we had government institutions that worked with children. This work had ideological overtones, but it gave them the opportunity to see beyond their families, and to fulfill themselves according to their interests. Today, according to Mikhail Vinogradov, the government can offer children only "the Internet, TV, disunity and lack of moral and ethical principles."

As a result, as noted by Gennady Bannikov of the Moscow City Psychological and Pedagogical University (MGPPU), children today often feel abandoned and see themselves as a burden to their family. "According to our research, 40 percent of adolescents are unable to see the future, or imagine it in a negative light. Their parents often do not understand what kind of problems their children have," Bannikov said. However, parents have different issues. According to the polls, their primary concern is providing for their children and ensuring they have something to wear and something to eat. They do not think much of their upbringing.

It would be unfair to place all the blame for the fact that children feel superfluous in this world on the parents. Adults who have to struggle for survival would also benefit from psychological support. When the basic material needs are not met, no one will think of spiritual needs.

The government, it turns out, walked away from this problem. "In 1995, the Suicide Support Service under the Ministry of Health was completely destroyed. It has never been replaced," reminded Gennady Bannikov. However, there are some new measures. Starting next year, at an annual medical examination, teenagers over age 14 will be also examined by a psychologist. Yet, according to experts from MGPPU who interviewed a number of school psychologists after a spring burst of suicide among children, their training is very poor, and they do not intend to improve it.

"Psychologists say that their duties do not include preventive care," said Tatiana Sinitsyna of MGPPU. Experts from the University went to the schools where tragedies occurred. The faculty was very cautious about their visit, stressing that there were no instructions from the Department of Education to work with psychologists. The situation is more than strange: according to Tatyana Sinitsyna, their employees are working in the schools illegally.

After a wave of suicides among children that swept the country, MGPPU experts proposed a number of urgent measures that would aid the situation. Among them is mandatory training for school psychologists and special programs that help to identify suicidal tendencies in children. Work with parents, who also have to be trained to listen to their children, is no less important. Another important point is the development of an algorithm for psychological help for schools where suicides occurred.

Perhaps even more important is provision of child counseling. There are children's helplines created in the first place to prevent suicides. But children have to know about these helplines, which is not that easy. "Why can't they be printed out on notebooks, so these numbers are always at hand?" suggested Olga Kostina.

Gennadiy Bannikov cited Nizhny Novgorod as an example, where not so long ago a counseling center was opened that provides free and anonymous services. The center received a great deal of calls regarding suicide. Those who for whatever reason do not want to talk to a school psychologist should have a backup plan in the form of such centers. This means that they need to be opened in all major cities.

Finally, the problem of rehabilitation of those who survived a suicide attempt is not being solved, just like the problem of young victims of crime. The responsibility for dealing with these issues is shifted to the shoulders of parents who do not have the required knowledge. Perhaps this is the reason why there are so many second attempts to end life. So far, none of the measures suggested by the experts in the spring have been implemented. Are we waiting for the next wave of suicides?

Svetlana Smetanina


Read the original in Russian

Author`s name Dmitry Sudakov