Наталия Старовойтова

Психолог-консультант, зав. отделением СРЦ для несовершеннолетних. Санкт-Петербург

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Does anybody need me? (the problem of suicides by children and teenagers

“Paradoxically, suicides by children and teenagers are happening despite increasing opportunities for expanding social interaction. Or are the huge number of Web chats, dating sites and other social networks making the problem of loneliness worse? It is difficult to say which is the reason is and which is the consequence,” said Natalya Starovojtova, a psychologist at the Pro Bono Alliance and the branch head at the social rehabilitation center Dom Miloserdija for minors.

“Moreover, it is impossible to ignore the recent trend of the family institution being destroyed and devalued,” she continued. “The traditional family performed many functions for children – pedagogic, educational, economic, and that of emotional-psychological guidance. But the borders of the modern family have become ever vaguer. Many outsiders now fulfill the roles that used to be a prerogative of the family. Parents have less time to speak to children. When they notice that their children have some problems in school, they tend to turn to psychologists or teachers. It seems that they don’t have the power of love, which always used to help in finding proper words. They believe that professionals should solve the problems and help their children. However, this approach doesn’t always work.”

Psychologists say that children for whom it is difficult to adapt to the modern, success-oriented world tend to exhibit more suicidal behavior. “Early deprivation, different forms of domestic violence and probably some personality traits, such as a predisposition toward depression, are all factors that get a child thinking: ‘does anybody need me?’ Alcoholic parents also contribute to the children’s self-aggressive behavior, which might lead to suicide,” Starovojtova added.

Experts distinguish between the so-called demonstrative suicide and real suicide plans.

“Unrequited love, failed exams and feelings of loneliness all push teenagers toward demonstrative suicide. The actual goal is not to die, but to attract the attention of important people. It means that the child is using an inadequate way to solve the problem, and such inadequate ways are the means of communication in this family. However, the frightful side of demonstrative suicide is that it can lead to death,” Starovojtova said.

Teenagers who tend toward real suicide have some special personality traits, such as rigidity, psychologists say. It is very difficult for them to adapt to new situations, change decisions, habits and opinions. These teenagers carefully plan their suicide. They minimize contact with friends, do not make future plans and straighten things out. For example, they can present somebody with some valuable thing. When all the things are done and the suicide plan is ready, the teenager might look vivacious and cheerful. In contrast, children who tend toward demonstrative suicide often tell somebody about their intentions, make “goodbye letters” available for reading, etc.

The third kind of suicide is latent suicide. Teenagers from this group tend to put their life at risk but cannot understand the reasons behind such behavior. The kinds of latent suicide are different: drugs and alcohol, dangerous kinds of sports and activities. “The most important thing is always to stay in contact with your child. If your child trusts you, he or she will probably discuss their problems with you. But if you devalue the personality of your child, put them down and deride them, the result will be the opposite,” Starovojtova advised.

The comment to article "Evanescent Lives" by Svetlana Kononova (Special to Russia Profile, July 12, 2010)/RIA Novosti