New Straits Times - - News - DR ONG BENG KEAT


YOUTH SUI­CIDE is a com­pli­cated is­sue as it in­volves the dy­namic play of en­vi­ron­men­tal, bi­o­log­i­cal and psy­cho­log­i­cal fac­tors.

“En­vi­ron­men­tal stress can pre­cip­i­tate de­pres­sion in bi­o­log­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als,” says con­sul­tant psy­chi­a­trist Dr Ong Beng Keat.

“The stress may be the re­sult of a dys­func­tional fam­ily, aca­demic pres­sure, peer pres­sure, so­ci­etal dis­crim­i­na­tion, work re­lated pres­sure, re­la­tion­ship is­sues and other fac­tors. Drugs and al­co­hol can also pre­dis­pose and pre­cip­i­tate de­pres­sion among youth, lead­ing to sui­cide in some cases.”

Dr Ong, who is based in Ge­orge Town, Pe­nang, says cyberbullying on so­cial me­dia, which is a form of dis­crim­i­na­tion, ap­pears to be linked to sui­cide.

“While we can­not deny the se­ri­ous­ness of this in­creas­ing trend, prospec­tive data col­lec­tion will def­i­nitely be use­ful in as­cer­tain­ing such as­so­ci­a­tion. “We must not con­done bul­ly­ing and must come down hard on of­fend­ers. There are no two ways about it.

“Leg­is­la­tion and en­force­ment, with co­op­er­a­tion of teach­ers, par­ents and so­ci­ety as a whole, are ways to curb the prob­lem.

“Iden­tify vic­tims and of­fend­ers. The lat­ter must be dealt with swiftly, while the for­mer can seek coun­selling from teach­ers and men­tal health pro­fes­sion­als to cor­rect skewed p e r c e ptions of them­selves and im­prove their self-con­fi­dence.”

Dr Ong says sui­cide alerts on so­cial me­dia are cries for help that war­rant in­ter­ven­tion by pro­fes­sional men­tal health work­ers.

“Even if these in­di­vid­u­als are seek­ing at­ten­tion via so­cial me­dia, they de­serve to be helped to un­ravel any un­der­ly­ing poor cop­ing skills, ad­just­ment is­sues and pos­si­ble men­tal health dis­or­ders like per­son­al­ity or de­pres­sive dis­or­ders,” he adds.

“To­day, so­cial me­dia is a plat­form for youth to ask for help. There­fore, we can also reach out to them via a sim­i­lar plat­form by ed­u­cat­ing them on how to get help.”

School guid­ance coun­sel­lor and psy­chol­o­gist Karen Yong said nowa­days trou­bled youth tended to seek the at­ten­tion of friends and fam­ily through Face­book and Twit­ter.

“It’s scary to re­alise that the num­ber of youth sui­cides has in­creased by leaps and bounds in re­cent years be­cause of so­cial me­dia. It’s not just a lo­cal prob­lem as we’ve heard of so many cases in Western coun­tries as well.

“Un­for­tu­nately, many of their ac­quain­tances as­sume it’s just an at­tempt to seek at­ten­tion. In­stead of talk­ing it out, they make fun of them. This just makes a bad sit­u­a­tion worse. The trou­bled youth then feels, ne­glected, re­jected and alone.”

Yong ad­vises par­ents to take a more ac­tive role by be­com­ing “friends” with their kids on Face­book.

“Par­ents should be on Face­book to al­low them to bet­ter re­late to their chil­dren. They will be sur­prised at some of the emo­tions and daily tri­als their chil­dren are go­ing through.

“Young peo­ple of to­day are more com­fort­able ex­press­ing their emo­tions on­line be­cause it en­ables them to hide be­hind a vir­tual mask. To them it is eas­ier, more con­ve­nient and less em­bar­rass­ing.”

She says fewer stu­dents are knock­ing on her door for help these days.

“In the past, there was nowhere else to turn to. Stu­dents would ap­proach teach­ers or par­ents. But now they have on­line av­enues, which un­for­tu­nately are not the best op­tion for trou­bled teens. The ad­vice they get could

be emo­tion­ally crip­pling

En­vi­ron­men­tal stress can pre­cip­i­tate de­pres­sion in bi­o­log­i­cally and psy­cho­log­i­cally vul­ner­a­ble in­di­vid­u­als.

and even fatal.”

She says the prob­lem is com­pounded by the fact that young­sters can learn new meth­ods to­com­mit sui­cide on on­line web­sites and forums that pro­mote sui­cide as a way to es­cape re­al­ity.

Dr Ong Beng Keat

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