MANILA -- Lucas (not his real name) was only 12 years old when he tried to commit suicide using an old belt three years ago.
“It happened in 2015, I came home one night, I found him anxious pacing back and forth from the kitchen and laundry room where he tried to kill himself,” Eva, Lucas’s mother, told Philippine News Agency (PNA) in an interview.
Before the incident happened, Eva said she didn’t notice any changes with Lucas’ behavior as he has always been a quiet boy. But, she once received a call from his homeroom teacher, informing her about his poor school performance and non-compliance to submissions of school requirements.
“My son is an achiever and when he was not able to submit a project during the last quarter, he thought he would not be able to pass and graduate. Initially, wala naman kaming napansin (we didn’t notice anything) out of the ordinary. It’s just that he was often times anxious and his teacher says he’s disrespectful, like he won’t talk or respond when asked a question in class,” she added.
Lucas, together with his entire family, consulted their school psychologist who referred them to the Ateneo Center for Family Ministries soon after the incident.
“He was seen by a psychiatrist there. Clinically, he was not classified as having a depressive disorder because the symptoms he showed did not fulfill the criteria of two weeks duration, except the fact he wanted to kill himself,” Eva narrated.
She said she never suspected that school concerns and having doctor-parents would impact Lucas’ perception of self-value.
According to the National Statistics Office, mental illness, which includes depression, is the third most common form of disability in the country.
The Global Burden of Disease Study in 2015 reported that 3.3. million Filipinos suffer from depressive disorders with suicide rates in 2.5 million males and 1.7 million females.
Celebrity psychologist and psychiatrist Randy Dellosa told PNA that comparison and hypersensitivity are two of the main reasons why young people today become depressed or commit suicide.
“Ang sensitive na bata, mas madaling ma-depress (A sensitive child gets easily depressed). And one symptom of depression is, of course, thoughts of self-harm or suicide, like self-cutting,” he said.
On the other hand, there are other young people who have genetic or innate type of depression, which requires medical intervention because it involves grave hormonal imbalances, Dellosa added.
“I’ll give you an example, you have a nice cellphone pero madali siyang ma-discharge. So may batang intelligent, athletic, happy tapos na-trigger lang, lumabas lang yung depression, wala namang problem (but it gets discharged easily. So there’s an intelligent, athletic, happy child who got triggered, the depression just surfaced but the child has no problem),” he said.
Noting that social media heightens the concept of comparison among its users, Dellosa said young people who are hooked to it become more susceptible to depression and suicide.
“Ang mga bata ngayon (The young people today), they post selfies and at the moment for the likes, they get depressed because of few likes. And you would notice how low their self-esteem is when there’s a great disparity between their selfies or profile photos and their real looks, too much filter,” he said.
Dellosa warned parents about letting their children read posts on social media about famous celebrities who committed suicide.
“Those who have are depressed with suicidal tendencies na nagpipigil lang nagkakaroon ng lakas ng loob magpakamatay (who are just controlling themselves gain the courage to commit suicide) thinking if these people do it we can do it too,” he said.
“Even cartoon characters with whom a teenager identifies his or herself with, when they commit suicide, they can cause depression and suicide in teenagers idolizing them, because you don’t know exactly the personalities of these teenagers,” he added.
Wanting to save their child from the pangs of depression, Eva and her husband made sure that they complete the family counselling they were advised to attend.
“We talked to him more often and sometimes we slept with him in his bed and tried to spend more time with him and his younger brother. We tried to surround him with relatives and friends when he was at home and not in school. We’re thankful his counsellor was supportive of him,” she said.
While she didn’t notice whether her son was bullied online, Eva forced herself to embrace social media.
“I knew he was active in social media. Before I would only use email for work and scan Facebook, I embraced social media to keep in touch or abreast with my kids and have our family chat group. I befriended him and his friends in FB and Messenger, also, I followed their Twitter account and texted my son on a daily basis,” she said.
Eva said Lucas did well after their counselling and never showed symptoms of depression since then.
“Now he is more into sports like ultimate frisbee, biking. He is likewise performing better in school and wants to move to a university for senior high school,” she added.
Dellosa emphasized that depression is a serious problem and it requires appropriate treatment.
“Maraming (There are many) treatments but first it needs to be treated medically if the nature is genetic. Then, counselling like what we call talk therapy, there should be support from the family as well,” he added.
Citing that young people express themselves better and comfortably through social media, Eva encouraged parents to embrace technology and use it as a means to connect with their children.
“It would bridge the generation gap, pay more attention to your kids, spend more quality time with them. It is not enough to ask your kids how was your day, we have to qualify and validate their ‘OK's’,” she said. (PNA)