It has taken me a week to muster the courage and some level of sanity to write this post.  

A fifteen-year-old girl I know committed suicide last week.

After her math board exams, some of the boys in her class taunted her that she would fail it.  The girl complained to her mom, who said, “if you had studied well, you’d pass, and if you fail, it’s your fault”.  The child tied a noose with her mother’s saree and hung from the fan that evening.

My chest hurts, and I am angry at various levels.

What’s wrong with us, parents, who have not taught our children resilience?  How can we raise a generation that is so fragile that words can break it?  

What stops a mom from telling the child “Screw them, they are nasty boys, they are not worth your attention”?  And instead gaslight her into believing the venom spewed on her?

What’s wrong with a generation that is always looking for validation?  How can one lose sight of what they are and what they want in the judgemental words of others?  Why has peer pressure become a driving factor for one’s existence?

What’s wrong with a generation a society that believes that taunting and bullying are ok?  What goes on in the psyche of the boy who said when confronted, “we were having fun, if she can’t take a joke, it’s not our fault”?

What stops a community from teaching children that it is ok to fail and you simply pick up the pieces and move on?

What’s with an education system that terrorises youngsters enough to take their own lives?

Do you know what’s worse? Last year, this child’s cousin committed suicide. On the day the board exam results were declared, she had asked her neighbourhood boy to check her results too. The boy told her she had failed. The child killed herself. Turns out the child had topped her school, and the boy was taunting her.

Neither of these children who died had mental health issues.  I met the girl who died last week a couple of months ago; she was this gentle, smiling, perfectly normal child.  I asked her about her preparations for the impending board exams, and she said that she was ok with all subjects but was worried about math.  I told her that she could call me anytime (she lives in a distant village) if she needed any help, and she shyly said she already has a tutor.  

I am beating myself now.  I should have said something to dispel her fear.  That she’ll be fine.  I don’t know what I could have done, but I know I should have done something.  I feel impotent rage at myself and society.

This is not the first case of youngster suicide that I know of.  I live in a university campus, in which every year, one student commits suicide, usually due to academic pressure, and occasionally due to some form of relationship failure.  There is something catastrophically wrong with a society in which youngsters, supposedly the liveliest of all age groups feel compelled to end their lives.  It is a systemic failure;  we have failed as parents, teachers, community, and human beings.  

I feel tired and beaten.  I can’t bear to think about the mom, my childhood playmate, and the pain she must be in.  I can’t think of what may have been for this child.  I am terrified about my own child and all the children I know.  I want to do something.  I don’t know what.  

22 thoughts on “We have failed

  1. I feel your pain, L… It’s simply terrible.

    What’s wrong with a generation that believes that taunting and bullying are ok?

    I’m not so sure that this is a generational phenomenon… are you?

    Much love,
    David

    Like

  2. You are completely right. If we are raising a generation of fragile snowflakes while at the same time giving them the message that academic success is all that matters, that failure is ours.

    It’s also our failure if we convince our children that success only looks like one thing. The fact is that most successful people were NOT the top of their academic class. Instead there is a drive and determination and ability to function in the real world that leads to their success.

    I have four children. Three were academic superstars. The fourth had us wondering even as we drove to the high school graduation ceremony whether our child would get a diploma. But you know what? All of them have made good lives for themselves. They hold jobs, pay their bills, have friends and people who love them.

    Parenting is really hard work. We have to walk a tightrope where we convince our children that academic success is important while also letting them know that actual success in life can wear a lot of different faces.

    My condolences to you and your friends after this tragic loss.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’m so sorry.
    I read that there’s been a dramatic increase in kid’s committing suicide post pandemic. So much that there must be a link. But the specific link is unknown. Too hard to return to pre-pandemic ways? Two years of worrying about death then everyone acting like it never happened? Who knows.

    You did the best you could on the situation with the girl’s fear. You aren’t psychic.

    I know another aspect is social media… so much false perfection and pressure to keep up. Kids don’t see the realities outside the pics. Heck, they don’t even see the unfiltered pics. We grew up with retouched photos in magazines. Nearly everything they see is retouched/filtered.

    Like

    1. Pandemic lockdown was the reason for this child’s fear of maths. I don’t think online school helps. Two years of learning math online followed by six months of school math and a board exams can push anyone off board. When my daughter was in 12th (another board year), she was terrified because the entire year had been online and it wasn’t quite the same learning.

      But I also agree about the social media part. I am not sure how much SM this particular child was exposed to, she lived in a remote village, and is not particularly conversant in English, but I see the havoc sm creates on city children. Heck, it creates havoc with city adults. To me. I was just browsing a few recipe blogs, and am depressed at (a) how good other people’s food looks and (b) how good other people look in their profile pictures. If at 50, SM can do this to me, I shudder to think what havoc it wrecks on youngsters.

      Like

  4. There is so much about our world today that makes my heart sad. I know bullying happened when I was in school, because there was some directed at me – but like you said “sticks and stones” and we went on with life. I wonder if some of this is because so many parents now are “helicopter” parents, protecting their children from all things negative, from germs to failure, so they don’t really learn about “real” life. Example is the everybody gets an award thing. And social media, and, and, and. It is so sad.

    Like

    1. Helicopter parenting is a definite cause. I’m guilty of that too. And projecting our ambitions and desires on our kids is another.

      But it’s not all parenting and societal expectations Carol. Much as I may agree with HG’s comment that we cast blame on youngsters because we are older, I also think there’s some basic attitude problem among youngsters that one must get stuff without hard work.

      The problem is systemic and a spectrum. I am not even sure it can be fixed anymore.

      Like

  5. How utterly awful. What of the pressure to succeed in society? The world must seem like a hopeless place for some. Children should be experiencing the beauty that our planet has to offer, and not to succumb to the dark underbelly of it.

    Like

  6. Depression doesn’t always manifest itself in obvious ways. Not knowing the child or her family, I can only speculate, but she may have been one of those “good girls” who tried never to cause trouble for anyone and stuffed any negative feelings inside. This is so common among both South and East Asian girls—I was one of them, for awhile, anyway—that it hurts to watch them struggle to maintain that quiet surface. It breaks my heart to hear of someone so young taking her life. You want to hug them and tell them it will be okay, this is just a few hours, a single day in a lifetime. Telling them they’re too fragile (I think we all are, under the callouses we form as we age) or placing the blame on a generation of children and parents doesn’t help. It also doesn’t help that kids these days are under far too much pressure to excel in school so they can get into a university with name brand recognition. I think the pandemic has exposed a lot of the faults in this line of thinking—the universities themselves have failed abysmally at teaching students not only remotely but in the few classrooms kept open. I feel like there’s this opportunity opening up post-pandemic for real change in the ways we define success and happiness. But for many it’s coming too late.

    Like

    1. As always, you offer a different perspective.
      The reason this child’s suicide seems to cut me so hard is that I WAS (and in some ways, am) that child. I have always been a timid, quiet person on the outside, but with a rumbling volcano inside. I remember my constant turmoil. I wonder what was it that pushed this child over the edge, and not me.

      Online education does not work, HG. Simply does not, no matter how many tools you have. The past two years have been a disaster with respect to education, as with everything else.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Online education is of very limited use to some. Children need social contacts and friends they can touch and see face to face. When they are mature enough they can then decide, but the online world is still of limited use to adults.

        When they closed the care homes in the UK in 2020 I thought this is plain bonkers, the weather is great, the residents need to get out in the open air and get some sun and vitamin D via it after the dark winter days.

        As time progressed I got angry and I now call it murder what was done to them.

        Then we have the children you speak of. The love of many will grow cold, it is written. There are those who hate the children of God and would happily kill us all.

        Much MSM is very negative. Perhaps they should watch some of the old films. I am reminded of Dance Class – Swing Time (1936) with Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers. Great lyrics – dust your self down, pick yourself up, start all over again.

        The children just need a helping hand sometimes, some more than others. That is love.

        I used to be quiet and shy, but with a rumbling volcano inside like you.

        But I put that down to wind. Note to self: eat less beans.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Yes you are right, it will take time. However, it was also a wake up call as so many of us, myself included, had been asleep or at least dozing and not alert to the dangers. Good is therefore coming out of evil if you will.

        And no, it is not sad at all. If one can laugh at oneself (I will tease myself mercilessly, and do so from time to time on my site), then one is protected from when others may be rude about one.

        Anyway, life is both very strange and very wonderful at the same time, and things are much more closely related than we think.

        I have tons of ideas whizzing round my brain, and I struggle to put things down as quickly as I wish. Your post on the myths re Rama etc got me thinking and laughing at what I could do with that.

        Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s