In what could be termed as the most shocking statistic of recent past, the World Health Organisation (WHO) report reveals that suicide and accidental deaths from self-harm injury were the third cause of adolescents’ mortality in 2015.
As per WHO, suicide or self-harm injuries have killed over 67,000 adolescents worldwide last year.
WHO says self-harm largely occurs among older adolescents and globally, it is the second leading cause of death for older adolescent girls. It is the leading or second cause of adolescent deaths in Europe and South-East Asia.
“Improving the way health systems serve adolescents is just one part of improving their health,” says Dr Anthony Costello, Director, Maternal, Newborn, Child and Adolescent Health, WHO.
“Parents, families, and communities are extremely important, as they have the greatest potential to positively influence adolescent behavior and health,” he added.
WHO fact sheet
- 34,650 males aged 10-19 died due to self-harm injuries
- 32,499 adolescent females died due to self-harm injuries
- Over 3,000 adolescents die everyday
- 2 million deaths reported every year
Most of these deaths can be prevented with good health services, education and social support. But, in many cases, adolescents who suffer from mental health disorders, substance use, or poor nutrition cannot obtain critical prevention and care services – either because the services do not exist, or because they do not know about them.
“Adolescents have been entirely absent from national health plans for decades,” says Dr Flavia Bustreo, Assistant Director-General, WHO.
“Relatively small investments focused on adolescents now will not only result in healthy and empowered adults who thrive and contribute positively to their communities, but it will also result in healthier future generations, yielding enormous returns,” he added.
“Suicides are largely preventable if one can pick up the tell-tale signs of depression. Though depression is more common than cough and cold, there is lack of awareness and people like to hide it. If not treated on time can have severe implications,” said Dr Harish Shetty, psychiatrist, Dr LH Hiranandani Hospital.
Dr Hozefa Bhinderwala, psychiatrist at Saifee Hospital, said adolescent age group is more prone to self- harm or depression as the person goes from acquiring skill sets on which their productivity for the rest of the life will depend.
“They believe that these set of skills will be the source of earning livelihood. If things don’t work out as per their expectations, they might get depressed,” said Dr Bhinderwala.
He said this is also the age where one gets attracted to opposite sex and can undergo depression in case of rejection.
“One needs to have coping skills to deal with such lows in life. Also, in present age with advent of technology and social media comparing one with others happens a lot. While social media has brought far people near, it has made most of us socially isolated from peers and family members and that is fueling depression,” said Dr Bhinderwala.