Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Suicide, a menace of urban life


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By Barnes Mawrie

In these past few years, reports of suicides in the city of Shillong have been on the rise. What is more alarming is that young boys and girls are the casualties. The tendency seems to be on the increase and there seems to be no voice of concern in the media. Is the government or the Church or any NGO doing anything to address this issue? This is a matter of life and death because it affects the young generation who are the future of our state. Considering that a few decades ago such incidents were so rare, there must be some factors that are responsible for this social behaviour. Looking at it from a sociological perspective, I would list down a few factors that could be responsible for such a phenomenon. First of all, the onset of an urban lifestyle is fast catching up in Shillong. Apart from the benefits, urban lifestyle carries along many negative aspects. As we all know, city life aggravates tension which consequently leads to psychological breakdown and depression. City dwellers are habitually used to a comfortable lifestyle – better facilities, better infrastructure, better mode of travelling, entertainment etc. Disruption of any such comfort immediately leads to tension. For example, when there is load shedding, a city inhabitant gets maddened, his pressure rises and tension follows. Instead a villager who is so used to long power cuts is peaceful without electricity even for a week.

I have seen Shillongites becoming tense while waiting for a cab, queuing up for LPG or at an ATM because they are always in a hurry to reach home or to attend to some urgent matters. Sometimes when the TV transmission does not work or the internet does not function, again tension rises. Thus being habituated to a cozy lifestyle, the city dwellers are more prone to tension when such a lifestyle is disrupted even for a brief period. The youth who are still inexperienced and psychologically unstable are the ones who are most affected by such a flux of life. The media is another factor that is responsible for rise in tension. The media today projects a lot of idealistic situations based on materialistic well being (possessing a house, a car, a washing machine, a fat bank account etc). In the setting of a city where the haves and have-nots are rubbing shoulders, the youth who belong to the section of ‘have-nots’ become easy victims of tension and depression when they see that they are unable to possess what their rich peers have.

City lifestyle is consumerist and it favours those who are rich and powerful because they can procure what they desire. Instead the poorer section of people who live at the fringes of society can only indulge in wishful thinking. This can drive an ambitious youth to a state of depression which probably will culminate in suicide or a criminal act. Perhaps another factor that is least thought of as a source for tension, is our current educational system. Today’s education is a sort of cut throat competition where the students must do or die, perform or perish. The emphasis on marks is driving students crazy. However, it has become a malum necessarium (necessary evil) because without it there is no hope of a career. This explains why ambitious parents train their children to almost breaking point. Tuition has become a sine qua non for even the most intelligent student. The students can no longer afford time for recreation and amusements. This is damaging to the overall health of the person. The moment they reach home from school or college, they get glued to their home work or hurry for tuition classes. Finally, when the results are out and when things do not match their expectations, depression sets in and what follows is tragedy.

The suicidal tendency among youth in the city is often the result of a psychological immaturity which prompts them to make hurried decisions. It is a fact that rural youth are psychologically more stable and mature than their counterparts in the city. This could be explained by the fact that rural youth assume responsibilities much earlier in life than youth in the cities. This enables them to cope with difficulties and problems. City youth especially the pampered ones, are often psychologically immature and they are incapable of coping with problems in life without the help of their parents or a counselor. When such youth turn inwards in times of difficulties and do not seek help from parents or counselors, they will probably end up in depression and suicide. The media has a lot to contribute to the rise in crime and suicides. The violent movies which the youth often watch which depict killing as a game, brainwash the young minds into thinking that life is worthless or something to play with. When such false ideas sink deep into the sub-conscious they will one day erupt into some shocking behaviour like suicide.

I do not intend to discuss exhaustively on this issue for I hope some expert sociologists will one day make a thorough study of this. What I would like to do at this juncture is to appeal to all sections of our society to think seriously about this growing menace. This is a dangerous tendency which if left unaddressed will affect the well being of our society. I hope that the government, the Church denominations, other religions and NGOs will consider this an urgent task and start doing something about it. I believe the educational institutions and the parents’ organizations also have a grave responsibility in addressing this problem.

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