By Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

Teen suicides, depression, bullying and rabbits (again)

January 25, 2023, 1:15 pm

“It never hurts to keep looking for sunshine” – Winnie the Pooh

Two days ago, a 19-year-old student from one of our universities died after jumping off a school building. Ruling out foul play, authorities have tentatively described it as an apparent suicide. School officials reminded all its students that “help was just a message, text or call away”.

This recent incident has brought some attention to the issue of teen suicides in the country. Recent studies show disturbing numbers about youth suicides or suicide attempts in the Philippines. In 2013, it was reported that 3 percent of Filipino teens tried ending their life. In 2021 the percentage rose to 7.5 percent. Unfortunately, six out of 10 of those who ever thought of committing suicides did not reach out to anyone. Of those who sought out help, only 4 percent sought professional help.

On Jan. 24 of this year, the House of Representatives passed on second reading a proposed measure seeking to strengthen the promotion and delivery of mental health services in the education system, for the hiring and deployment of mental health professionals. The authors urged their fellow legislators for the quick passage of the bill to address the rising incidence of emotional, psychological and mental health issues among students these days.

Studies have shown that the primary cause of suicides or suicide attempts is severe depression. Depression can occur because of psychological disorders and other biological origins. These factors contribute to severe forms of depression, which often lead to self-harming actions and suicides. When mixed with alcohol and drugs, things become worse. These causes are where mental health professionals are most needed. As such, increasing access to mental health professionals is crucial. Parents, guardians and concerned friends must also contribute in identifying signs of depression and facilitating this access.

There are other causes of suicide attempts where other sectors of society must also pitch in. Some of these causes are: (1) severe discouragement due to family problems, (2) rejection (from friends or love interests), (3) defeat and shame of failure and the most prevalent is (4) BULLYING.

School officials, influencers, media and government can each contribute to lessening the impacts of these causes.

Bullying. There has been a marked increase of reports of student suicide attempts due to bullying in all its forms (physical, verbal, and online). Some educators have raised the alarm that they have received more reports of several kids “suffering from anxiety, stress, and sadly self-harm including suicide as a result of several factors including bullying.”

School psychologists advise parents to observe the tell-tale signs of bullying other than bruises such as: (1) mood swings, (2) changes in eating habits, (3) less to no friends, and (4) sudden failing grades. Rather than be angry or disappointed, parents are told to reassure and support their kids and see them as stable allies.

The question that many people, especially those from Generation X, are asking is why are incidences of teen suicides and severe depression due to non-biological factors also increasing? Are kids today less resilient, more sensitive, more prone to taking offense? Bullying, rejection, family problems, and failure have been around for ages. Why are kids today more affected? Why are more kids taking their lives because of these? Why are more kids overriding the normal biological mammal instinct of survival and self -preservation?

Some people are asking if we have raised our kids wrong. The concepts of helicopter parenting or participation trophies have been blamed. Have we failed to toughen up our kids? Have we failed to teach them how to stand up against those who bully them? Have we failed to teach our kids how to handle failure and rejection?

Has media, too, contributed to this fascination with depression and overthink?

Last week, I discussed how the positive traits of those born under the Year of the Rabbit should be emulated. Unfortunately, the rabbits among us allegedly have some negative traits which may become prevalent. According to some fengshui experts, those born under the year of the rabbit are prone to anxiety, depression, insecurity, and being overly sensitive. The year of the rabbit can allegedly increase the possibility of these traits to affect even those non-rabbits. Will incidence of depression also increase because of this?

We may have different opinions and views on the issue of kids and depression these days. What is clear, however, is that these issues must be tackled and dealt with by everyone. These are our kids that we are talking about.

This is my oblique observation.

Editor’s note: The opinions expressed in the foregoing article are solely the author’s and do not reflect the opinions and beliefs of the Philippine News Agency (PNA) or any other office under the Presidential Communications Office.


About the Columnist

Image of Atty. Gilberto Lauengco, J.D.

ATTY. GILBERTO LAUENGCO, J.D. is a lawyer, educator, political strategist, government consultant, Lego enthusiast, and the director of CAER Think Tank. He is a Former Vice Chairman of MECO, Special Assistant of NFA and City Administrator among others. His broad experience has molded his unique approach to issues analysis which he calls the oblique observation.