The terrible teenage incident that took place in a local school of Karachi was yet another manifestation of the upsurge in cases of teenage suicide in the country. Two adolescents, a boy and a girl, were discovered shot dead inside their classroom after gunshots were overheard by the faculty members as well as the students gathered for the morning assembly. Initial probe into the matter found out that they had decidedly ended their lives for fear of family disapproval of their relationship.

A dire redress in the form of changing attitudes of parents, better and enhanced psychological counseling to treat the ever-increasing levels of stress faced by the contemporary child coupled with sincere efforts on part of the incumbent government is more or less needed to put a decline if not stop to such activities.

Before coming of age and attaining maturity, parents should invariably oversee their children in terms of what they are exposed to; on internet and on television. Contents depicting intense violence, sexuality, crude language and drug usage that are likely to impair a child’s mental growth must be blocked availing of option of parental controls at the drop of a hat. Of-late, airing of re-enactment shows should also be proscribed by the authorities. I am laying emphasis on parents to bound up to such protocols owing to the kid’s impressionable age. After all, psychologists’ insistence on not viewing certain content before a given age did not come out of the blue. But, unfortunately this does not happen in our society and even warning labels are thoroughly ignored. It is pertinent to mention here that by blocking I never meant that parents keep the kids away from the state-of-the-art technologies: laptops, mobile gadgets, tabs, PSP’s, play stations, television. Realistically, even if they try they cannot do that. Because technologies have become an indispensible part of our lives and quitting its use will indubitably leave us behind the world. Suppose, even if parents do succeed in stopping the kids, one can still argue to the indisputable presence of instincts and fantasies. In one or the other way round instincts would resurface when suppressed. Bertrand Russell, a British thinker and philosopher, explains it well: “instincts are like devil.” Therefore the solution lies, he says, only in creating such systems in the society by which instincts are satisfied in a positive and healthy manner and without harm.

The government is also is not keeping its end of the bargain. It is reluctant to introduce any well drafted policy in this regard. Neither has it taken any measures to keep firearms and poisons out of the reach of teenagers. In Pakistan, there is an ingrained hesitance to discussing mental problems. Pakistan, by far has an abysmally low ratio of psychiatrists to population—1 or so for half-a-million people—noted by creative commons. Mental illness (largely linked to chronic depression), abuse, poverty, insecurity of future, relationships, low self-esteem and self-confidence are the primary factors spurring teens to end it all. Of these, depression, abuse and low self-esteem and confidence require psychological counseling. But the question comes as to who will cater to such issues? Psychiatrist are present in almost all major cities of the country but are heavily outnumbered by the burgeoning population. Then there is the problem of social stigma attached to notion of psychological counseling. Such is the level of ignorance that people do not even want to be seen at or visit the psychiatric clinics. Are they afraid of people who they fear would judge or make fun of them? Insofar the answer is yes. Other possible reason keeping them from visiting clinics is the held belief that their respect in the society would be on a downward trajectory if they took such a step. The taboo has become so deeply entrenched in our societies that even children interested to make a career in psychiatry are discouraged.

According to a report of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan published in 2012, poverty and insecurity of future were given as the causes compelling teenage girls to commit suicide. Again it comes to who needs to take on issues of poverty and future insecurity? Whose duty it is to roll out job opportunities for youngsters? Needless to say, the government, which is hitherto been taken over by a deep slumber. What follows in future in anybody’s guess? Chairman of the Agha khan university hospital, Karachi, Dr. Murad Musa Khan says that there is an estimated 5000 to 7000 suicides annually in the country of which nearly 25 per cent cases pertains to youth.

In the end, I reiterate parents to realize that their times were considerably different from their kids. Today’s world is virtually poles apart to the world existing twenty to thirty years back—with advancements in almost every sphere of life. The present day child grapples with enormous undue pressures of the complex society that did not even exist back in time of their parents. Giving room to each other and settling issues by engaging in talks is a must-do to prevent the status-quo from exacerbating. De-stigmatizing the concept of psychological counseling and sexual education would be a concrete step in resolving the social issues related to Pakistani society.

MUHAMMAD YASIR KAYANI,

Lahore, December 7.