Suicidal behavior among adolescents: How parent-adolescent relationship affects
Every year 13 to 64 thousand people commit suicide in Bangladesh. We know this from the published research done in the country over the last decade; the suicide rate ranges from 7.8 to
39.6. Also, it is evident from the reports of different organisations that the suicide rate is increasing every year. Although there has been no national surveillance to determine the actual rate of suicides in Bangladesh, research has shown that the rate is higher among young people and adolescents. A recent publication in an international journal by a group of Bangladeshi researchers tells that suicidal behaviour exists in one in every ten adolescents in Bangladesh.
Suicide is marked by the World Health Organization (WHO) as the second most common reason for the death of those aged between 10 and 24 years. Many do not know that suicidal behaviour is a predictor of future suicides and that understanding them can prevent suicide among adolescents. If anyone has any of these three characteristics, they should be considered as having suicidal behaviour:
1. Thought about committing suicide (suicidal ideation)
2. Plan to commit suicide (suicide planning), and
3. Attempt to commit suicide (suicide attempt).
Research shows that globally one in every six adolescents aged between 12 and 15 years reported that they had either suicidal ideation, suicide planning or suicide attempts. Having a suicidal tendency can lead to various mental health problems as well. On the other hand, psychological, social, and environmental issues can lead to suicidal tendencies among adolescents.
Parents can significantly contribute to adolescents social, emotional and mental development. The parent-adolescent relationship can also help in coping with stress and adverse life events in later life. Four dimensions of the parent-adolescent relationship are essential:
1. Mental support or understanding problems
2. Monitoring academic activities
3. Monitoring leisure time activities
4. Respecting privacy
These dimensions are related to parenting skills. Adolescents who experience family conflicts, such as divorce or separation, or less parental support, develop suicidal tendencies more than others. Whereas positive relationships with parents can reduce the risks of depression and anxiety in adolescents, preventing suicidal behaviours.
There has been no extensive study on how suicidal behaviour is related to the parent- adolescents relationship. To fill this gap, a group of Bangladeshi researchers at LifeSpring Limited analysed the data of 1,20,858 adolescents from 52 countries, among which 53.9% were girls. The data were obtained from the Global School-based Health Survey (GSHS) database. The study included surveys in countries from five WHO regions: eight from the African Region, 15 from the Region of America, seven from the Eastern Mediterranean Region, six from South-East Asia Region and 16 from the Western Pacific Region. Two thousand five hundred forty-five adolescent's data were included from Bangladesh in this analysis. The results have been published in an open-access peer-reviewed international journal named 'EClinical Medicine' published by The Lancet.
What we know from the study is that overall, two-thirds of the patients understand problems of the adolescents. When researchers looked into the differences among the countries, they found that the girls of Afghanistan (60.8%) reported more than any other country about their parents understanding their problems. In Bangladesh, 42.7% of boys and 55.3% of girls said their parents understood their concerns. When it comes to monitoring adolescents' academic and leisure time activities, overall, less than half of the parents reportedly monitor their children. However, more than half of the Bangladeshi parents monitor their children's academic activities. The rate is 52.9% for boys and 56.6% for girls. Also, parents monitor the leisure time activities of the girls (49.1%) more than the boys (41.5%) in our country. Regarding respecting the privacy of adolescent children, overall, more than two-thirds of the parents reportedly do it. Although the rate of respecting privacy is lower among the parents in South-East Asia, Bangladeshi parents reportedly respect their children's privacy more (84.9% for boys and 88.9% for girls).
The study found that suicidal behaviours are more common in adolescent girls than boys. Compared to the rest of the world, suicidal behaviour is lower in the South-East Asia region and the highest African region. Adolescent boys of wealthier countries have the highest rate of suicidal behaviours, and the rate is the lowest among girls in the least developed countries. The rate is similar for boys and girls in Bangladesh, 11.6% and 11.7%, respectively.
Each of the dimensions of the parent-adolescent relationship mentioned above has associations with suicidal behaviours in adolescents. The rate of suicidal behaviour (thought, plan, or attempt) is less among the adolescents who reported that their parents understood their problems. Except for the African region, every other region showed strong relationships between suicidal tendencies among adolescents and their parents' understanding of problems, monitoring academic or leisure activities. However, respecting the privacy of adolescents in South-East Asia did not have any association with suicidal behaviours. There is also no association between family's socioeconomic status, psychosocial condition or lifestyle with suicidal behaviours among adolescents. It means that understanding and monitoring are always beneficial to the children regardless of the status of the parents.
The team leader of this research Dr. Saydul Ashraf said, "Parenting is critical, and many of us are not conscious of this. Every parent should know about good parenting skills so that everyone can raise their children in a better way. Our recent study has proven the importance of this."
Another team member of this study, the founder of LifeSpring Ltd., Psychologist Yahia Amin, said, "It is true that parents' beneficial acts are the most important thing required for their children's development. At the same time, it is also true that some wrong acts or words can leave their children with lifelong trauma or can lead them to self-harm. Build such a relationship so that the most desired thing in your child's world becomes the relationship between you two."
The parent-adolescent relationship varies in countries, usually based on their societies, economy, culture. Suicidal behaviours among adolescents, however, will be lower wherever parents understand their children's problems, monitor their academic and leisure activities and respects their privacy.