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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Russia's Child Suicides

Each month between 50 and 70 attempted child-suicide cases are admitted to Moscow's hospitals. For another 10 to 15, it is too late . These figures increase every year. What has happened to the cherished idea of a "happy childhood"? Have our children grown tired of school, of constant scenes and fights at home, of betrayal by parents and friends? Or perhaps the opposite is true: Perhaps they have had enough of their incomprehensible lives and are suddenly fed up? Whatever the reason, psychologists say that every year over 1,000 boys and girls attempt suicide in Moscow alone. Relatively few end up in the hospital. In Russia as a whole, the total number of attempted suicides may be as high as 30,000-50,000. Suicidal children up to the age of 14 are admitted to Moscow's Filatov Clinic. "Weren't you scared?" I asked 13-year old Lena, who has repeatedly attempted suicide. "No," replied the girl. "It is more frightening to see my mother drunk with all her men. It is frightening to wake up in the morning and have to live in the same house with her." To throw oneself out of a window, slash one's wrists, swallow pills by the bottle, attempt to hang oneself, throw oneself under the wheels of a car is not frightening. To live is frightening. Children over the age of 14 are taken to the Sklifasovsky Hospital. It is this age group that accounts for 80 percent of all child suicides. Whereas younger children may attempt suicide as a type of blackmail, to frighten their parents, these older children know exactly what they are doing. Those who survive remain in a state of deep depression for a long time afterwards. Doctors advise parents to seek help for their children at the Center for Suicide Research after they have been discharged from the hospital. However, Yelena Brono, a senior staffer at this center, says she sees only four or five children and their parents each week: The rest think that the worst is over. They are mistaken: The ensuing depression pushes a child toward repeated suicide attempts. But many parents do not even bother to write down the number of the helpline which for many years now has provided a way for qualified psychiatrists to listen to the children's painful secrets and give them sound advice. Unfortunately, such helplines operate in only a few Russian cities. A few have social-work centers where specialists stand by to receive alarmed parents and their children. Children in our country have found themselves abandoned. Our politicians do not have the time to help: They are caught up in the struggle to maintain their own power. Parents are caught up in their everyday problems: poverty, unemployment, inadequate housing, etc. "In all cases of child suicide, the adults are to blame," says Brono. "Adults, and especially the parents, create a dead-end situation for the child. The child doesn't want to live as he lived before, but he is incapable of changing anything in his life. It is especially dangerous if the conflict stems from the situation at school. Humiliated by teachers and rejected by classmates, the child looks for help and security at home and does not find it. Parents do not want to understand their child; they don't try to defend or help the child. Left to deal with everything alone, the child is easily pushed to suicide." Elderly people say that there is nothing worse than solitude. For teenagers hanging around the metro or in abandoned basements, the solitude is comparable to that endured by those abandoned in communal flats and old people's homes. This is probably why the elderly and children make up such a large percentage of suicide cases. In recent years, solitude has hit our children like a malignant tumor. At 14 or 15, they realize that no one needs them, not even their own parents. That is when they begin to take their own lives. Afterwards the adults can't understand why: They were fed and dressed; what else did they need? Those who have lived through war, hunger, camps, and poverty do not understand that their children are living in an era characterized by a general deficit of love. The child's pure heart cannot and does not want to accept society's harsh morals and rules. It craves love. Our government is not prepared to -- and, in fact, cannot -- tackle this problem. This is a problem for individual families. Until parents realize this, the number of children who needlessly die will continue to grow with each day. Tatyana Kozlova is a correspondent for the paper Slovo i Delo. She contributed this comment to The Moscow Times.