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DEVELOPMENTAL COMMUNICATION Creating Awareness Against Suicide Research Document

Project By: Neha Jayadevan Guided By : SM Shah Course Duration : 5 Weeks

Developmental Communication The concept of Developmental Communication lies in using contemporary media as a channel for development. The process involves collecting data directly from a particular target audience; analyzed, compiled and presented in a specific media intended for the maximum conveyance of the message to the target audience, bringing a positive change, individually or socially. Developmental Communication involves the use of variety of communication techniques and mediums to help individuals among the targeted society to aquire new knowledge and skills. This will allow the communities not only to experience change but to guide it as well. These mediums can be used to achieve governance, health and sustainable development.Old media can be combined with new media to get the message across to specific audiences.

Creating Awareness Against Suicide Suicide is the act of intentionally causing one’s own death. The suicide rates in adolescents in India are on the rise. The tragedy of losing a young person to suicide is devastating to family, friends and the community. Parents, siblings, friends, teachers, neighbors etc., are always left wondering if there was something they could have done to prevent the young one from turning to suicide. Suicide risk-factors vary with age, gender, ethnic group, family dynamics and stressful life events. The reasons for suicide among adolescent are complex, but most commonly, they resort to this because they see no other choice left; they see it as an easy way out of any situation, not realizing that suicide is a selfish act.

Why Suicide Awareness? The numbers are very disturbing and alarming. The fragmentation of society into smaller families and the advent of social networking sites have made adolescents feel neglected and lonely. Moreover, the need to let people understand that depression can be overcome with a little help and suicide is not the only solution available.A person with suicidal tendencies, if handled in the right manner can come out of it clean. Also, the ability of the younger generation to handle difficult situations and cope with disappointments and failure is on the decline. It is not possible to make a drastic change in the midset of the people, the environment and society, but it is possible to make a change, one step at a time.

Objective of the Project The target audience for this project are literate adolescents between the age group of 12-18. The objective is to create awareness against suicide among three basic groups: The disturbed individual: Making them aware that suicide is not the only option, encouraging them to be more open with their emotions and talk to people who can help them and be more understanding. The parents: Asking them to give their adolescent a chance to talk, be more supportive and not have unreasonable expectations of their children. The friends and family: Helping them to identity signs of depression and suicidal tendencies in an adolescent, equipping them to deal with the situation in the best way possible.

Research and Analysis After gathering all the information, I will ideally be able to understand what exactly drives a person to suicide and what are the measures that friends and family can take in order to comfort the victim and dissuade them from taking the step, if at all. Methods of research : Telephonic conversation with a clinical psychologist. Internet research on suicide, especially in India. Personal interaction with parents and teachers. Interaction with suicide helplines on how to deal with the issue. Interaction with families who have lost adolescents to suicide. Preparing a questionnaire to be answered by adolescents.

Anuja Panicker, Clinical Psychologist, PSG College, Coimbatore

Students: Suicide has to be seen as a cry for help. They must be made to understand that this is not the only option. Apart from this, the kids need to be introduced to a better coping stratergy. Parents: Parents have to, first and foremost get rid of the negative stigma that surrounds suicide. At this crucial time, they have to be more supportive of the children rather than angry, which is the most common reaction. In this day and age, when parents hardly ever spend time with their children, it is very essential for the parents to nuture a supportive environment in the household and otherwise. It is also very important to give the child a chance to talk, be open to listening to whatever problems they might have, however small they may be. Friends: Friends are generally the people who are able to pin point the signs of depression in households where the parents are hardly ever present. The basic tell tale signs are talking of having suicidal tendencies, disinterested in things that used to interest them, not energetic, not interacting properly, consitent crying, etc. However, these signs may not be visible in all people.

Media and Social Networking sites: Media is one of the reasons for the increase in suicide rates because they seem to sensationalize these incidents; even in movies, how else will a boy know that ingesting chani powder is fatal? I have seen many cases where people have been depressed and the underlying reason is because they feel very neglected thanks to social networking sites and also becuase it possible to lead a completely different life on the internet than you are in real, which can be very dangerous. Reasons for the increase in number: The main reason, according to me is the advent of western influences in Indian culture. The children are caught between Western and Indian cultures and are left very confused. Also, the level of pressure faced is much higher than it used to be. Morever, the suport system for children has completely vanished after the fragmentation of society. North-South divide: The numbers are higher in the South because the society is more conservative and culturally oriented than the north. The North is more accepting of the western culture and are more exposed and open to it.

Based on Internet Research

• India has the highest suicide rates in the world. India’s suicides account for over 10% of the world’s suicide population.






reported cases of suicide in a day

• In India in the year 2012, 1,35,445 people commit suicide in a year; 11,287 in a month, 371 in a day and 15 in a day. • In the past 10 years, the suicide rates have increased by 8% every year. • The most common age group for suicide is 15-28, an estimated 40% of the total number of suicide deaths. It is the 3rd most common cause for death in this age group.

• The suicide rates in South India are 10 times higher than in the North. Tamil Nadu is the state with most number of reported cases of suicide (16,927 per month), closely followed by Maharashtra. • The highest number of recorded suicides was in the year 2011 – 1,55,585. • In India, unlike in most other countries, suicide and attempt to commit suicide are considered punishable offenses by the law with a jail sentence of 1 year or a fine and in some cases both. This is the result of most cases of suicide going unregistered or being registered as an accident. • 8-10 attempts of suicide go unregistered. •The southern states have a suicide rate of 15 while the Northern states like Punjab, UP, etc have suicide rates as low as 3. • Among UTs, Puducherry had the highest suicide rates in India. • 72% of students in India don’t know how to deal with stress. • Most common ways of committing suicide – Poisoning, hanging, self-immolation and jumping in front of speeding trains.

Most common methods adopted Poison Hanging Self-immolation Jumping in front of trains.

• The main reasons for adolescents to resort to suicide: Exam/entrance test related pressure. Competition. Peer pressure. Parental/family problem. Bullying. Love affair gone badly. Teenage pregnancy. Social networking sites – a sense of loneliness in a crowd/identities. Deprivation of sunlight. Feeling of negligence Copy-cat syndrome. • The wealthier and more educated are more likely to commit suicide. • The tell-tale signs of depression are: Loss of interest in day-to-day activities Excessive sadness and crying Talking about death and dying Negative change in personality Disturbance in sleep Low self-esteem Change in eating habits Fear of losing control No hope for the future • Every suicide leaves behind 7 people to suffer. • There is an 8% increase in the suicide statistics per year for the last 10 years. • The students need to be given a better coping strategy, while parents have to overcome the negative stigma against suicide. The parents, at a delicate time like this, have to be more supportive of the children rather than angry at the adolescent for having suicidal tendencies. • For a child to come out of the depression healthy, a sympathetic environment is very important. Most importantly, the parents must spend ample time with the adolescent and give them a chance to open up and talk. • The most basic, yet idealistic ways to overcome rising number of suicide cases are: Reducing social isolation. Preventing social disintegration. Treating mental disordered at a very early stage.

Christopher Danabal Head Master, SBOA Schoo Coimbatore.

SBOA, a school located in Coimbatore, has lost 2 students to suicide in the last 4 years. Both due to exam/ educational pressure.

1. What do you think about suicide? Suicide is a very sorry state of affairs. I feel very bad about it. It is unethical also. No religion recommends suicide in any way. When they meet unexpected situations in life and they are not able to meet these challenges and they are not able to accept the failure. 2. What are the main reasons for suicide among adolescents? Basically, because previously suicides were very rare about 10-12 years ago. If anybody had committed suicide we used to be afraid of him or her, we used to be afraid of the place that they had committed suicide in. Now it is a very common feature because the joint family system is completely absent now. Only the nuclear family exists, only father and mother. Mostly because of family system and they are pampering the kid too much from day 1 onwards. From LKG onwards, they start pampering them. And the children want to achieve whatever they want. The parents yield to it in the

beginning only, but when they grow up they realize that they shouldn’t yield to everything and stop yielding. That’s the problem. And they are infecting more ambitions in the children. Everybody wants his or her children to be No.1 in everything, which is not possible. Everybody has their own difference of capacity to handle things and merits. But parents, whether they are literate or illiterate, whether they can afford it or not, it doesn’t matter, the kid should be No.1.Parents don’t understand the reality also, they simply inflict/ force them. They give an idealistic picture of ambition; unachievable ambition. They set unachievable goals for their children. And when they are not able to achieve them and in the absence of proper counseling, they end up committing suicide. One of my students had also committed suicide last year. That is a very horrible story. Last year, one student wanted to join the Science group, I refused to give it to him, but his parents made all sorts of calls and got recommendations. Later on, I told him it’s not possible for him to join Science group, not because I don’t believe in him, but his marks were too poor until the mid term exams. But after that, in 10th standard, we give them enough revision, 4-5 revisions. As a result, when they go for finals, they get good marks. And on seeing the mark, they think that they are very great, they can do it. But when

they come to 11th standard, after sometime, reality hits them. Their incapability to cope comes out. And they are not able to cope up with the demand of the subject, the pressure. In that particular case, that particular students, the parents also made a big scene, they brought in political pressure. That fellow, from the beginning he has been getting very less marks in the 11th. I think it was the quarterly examination, in the month of October. It was the first day of school, he failed in all four subjects, and finally, the computer science teacher gave him some grace marks and made him pass. He was happy that he had passed in at least one subject. He went back home and at 5 30 he committed suicide. So who is the cause for that? But when I went to this house and saw his parents, I could recall all this only. I could only scold the fellow. I don’t have any mercy for this fellow. Because of his father, this boy died. The boy wanted to go for commerce group, but his parents’ ambition. They are actually goldsmiths, they are uneducated. I don’t accept the theory that illiterate parents cannot give their kids good education. I have come across many situations where children of illiterate parents have gotten the first rank, they have become collectors also. But this case was totally different; it was because of the pressure of the parents, this fellow committed suicide. He went home and his mother asked him immediately, what happened to your marks, he replied saying he failed in Math and that he had to attend math tuition. Then his mother started to shout at him saying she has spent more than 8,000 rupees on your tuitions and he was being adamant by not going. The boy refused to go for tuition that day and his mother started scolding him again, saying that his father is working day and night to give you education and you fail like this and now you don’t want to go for tuition. He ate his tiffin, went upstairs, and committed suicide. So whose fault is it? I

find that it’s the fault of the parents. We all said he is not able to cope with 11st standard science group, so these results were just the tip of the iceberg for him. So mostly, over ambitious parents and over pampered children. The children are very demanding and the parents give in to their every demand. Hence they are often not able to accept failure. This is the current situation. 3. Are you aware of the suicide statistics of India? Yes, its going up. Only because of all these factors. Day before yesterday, there were 10 reported suicides in Coimbatore city, as per the newspaper. All for flimsy reasons; one fellow committed suicide because he lost his motorbike. If you go through the newspaper, you’ll see all this. 4. Do you think that if people know about the suicide statistics of India, will the rates lessen or increase? In a month, 11,387 people commit suicide on an average in India and that makes it 15 in a day. So do you think that if the students know about the statistics, they will realize that its such a big number, do you think that will increase the number of suicides or decrease it? It has no relevance to that. They take decisions on their own. Not because there are too many cases of suicide will they not kill themselves. That is not a criteria. Statistics will not help. We have to find out the reason behind it. Or general awareness must be created. Ethical principles and value education are a must. Awareness must be created that it is a sin and shouldn’t be committed. It should help in taking policy decisions. Here, in the field no, only teachers have to play a role. Parents have to play a role. They must be told to withstand all of this, all sorts of failures; that is the reason. 5. If you find any kids that are depressed, what measures do you take?

We have a proper mechanism in place here; we identify the students. If that fellow is isolates himself. But this particular student, we were not able to identify, we were able to accept that this fellow has committed suicide. Theory says that if they isolate themselves, a person who is not mingling with others, he’s aloof all the time, he is always in his own world, and then they say he is depressed. But this particular kid wasn’t like that.. He failed in the exams, the reopening day; there was a grim situation that prevailed in the class, when we give mark sheets. We used to feel bad too when we were kids because the teachers used to beat us. We used to go to class, prepared to get beaten. We were ready to face it. Now it is not like that, and on the first day, everyone will be with a grim face. After that, they’ll come back.. This fellow was talking to his class teacher well till the last period. That fellow was helping the teacher to do retotaling. He was doing it on the behalf of the teacher. He was behaving normally. His might have been an instantaneous decision, but the thought might’ve already crossed his head. Or some idea might’ve been there about suicide. It must have been all vain thoughts, not very big ones. The mother scolding him is what triggered it. Because of the expectations of the mother, afraid of his father. All these must have made him take the instantaneous decision. So in this case, you can’t identify it. So that is the common reason.. After exam results, throughout Tamil Nadu and India, lots of kids commit suicide. Generally, we have to identify the isolated students, who are keeping aloof, not mingling with others, who is not concentrating on studies, who is not dressing properly, who gives least importance to combing hair, oiling, etc. Just like that carefree, coming to school. We can identify those fellows. We have a counselor, because we can’t spend time with them and we have a full-fledged professional counselor who is available and

we recommend the children to them. If she is absent or she goes on leave, I have other contacts or consultants to whom I refer the case to and from there I cant understand certain cases like rogue behavior and all and we are able to correct them. That is also there, I have been going and telling all those things, I share things about this boys suicide to the students. 6. So after this issue, have people become more aware about suicide? How has that affected the people in his class? That’s what I said, I used to say to my students, I used to narrate the situation when the bereaved families on the date of death, after the body came, what happened to the parents, how they behaved. I took all the children to his house. The body could not be taken inside the house. The day the boy’s body came, they kept it on the road only, and they weren’t even allowed to keep it for half an hour. I explained all these things to the students; we do that.. But the students take decisions instantaneously. When we go to the bereaved house, we feel something, we have so many philosophies, after coming back, we are normal. But as a teacher, we have to go on with life. I’m sure I’ll have an affect, one day or another. All we can do is sow the seed, we can’t do anything else. We give an idea of what will happen. As long as my class is concerned, we discuss everything.. Even a motorcycle accident I will discuss with them. As a teacher, we are expected to do all these things. It is a social problem. I think the rates of suicide will go up only. I don’t think it’ll ever be contained, unless we change the mindset or environment, we can’t avoid it. The same situation, the same parents, same society, same expectations, over ambitious. The counselor tries her best to make a change. There have been some success

stories; case studies everything possible has been done. In our school there has been two cases of suicide. About 3-4 years ago, a girl committed suicide on school campus; she fell down from the terrace. The reason was because she was caught copying in an exam, such a flimsy reason and she had to jump for that. We always pass them, even during public exam, we don’t give lesser than 50. They know that teacher will correct them, even after that they want to do; when we called her parents, she got scared, and she went and jumped. It was a horrible experience. 7. Do the teachers in any way feel responsible? Because, for the boy who committed suicide because he failed, does the teacher feel responsible I any way, saying maybe if they had given him more mars, he might still be alive. The last teacher who I was telling you about, whom he was helping, felt very bad. Head he said something to her, the lady would have been able to comfort him. That fellow was not open to her. Even the previous girl who committed suicide, the girl was very close to me, I dare say that had that girl saw me before she went up to the terrace, I would’ve been able to stop her. I would’ve asked her immediately, if she was okay. I do that to any girl. That girl was especially close to me. She was a very good sports girl, so I knew her very well. Had I seen her, I would’ve averted this issue at all. But fate is like that. I felt very bad about it, because that girl was very close to me as compared to this boy. That day, I was in class till 10 o clock, she went up at 9 50. It was a matter of 10 mins. Last minute change would’ve been possible and I felt very bad. Like that, even the Computer Science teacher felt bad; had she said something, but these fellows will not tell no, They wont share. Once they share, the problem will reduce.

8. Do you think that if any of these kids had spoken to someone about this issue, they could have been stopped? Do you think that if they just have to open up, things will be better? What makes them open up? For me, what I feel is, if they raise the question, and they get a cue from somewhere else. Maybe cinema, some news item, accordingly how will they know that chani powder is fatal, how do they know where to get it? How do they know to go ad jump in front of the train? It is all because of cinema. Even fir thieves, they get a cue from films. So this is what helps them to take the decision. But had they opened their mouth to somebody, things would’ve been different now. 9. If the rules to buy these fatal items are made stricter, will that have an affect on the suicide rates? They will find a way to get them. But kids maybe, it might make a difference. If its beyond their reach, then maybe. They might postpone the attempt, and when they postpone, they might have a different viewpoint. If its not available, that will buy them time and new philosophies and thoughts might come. Some friends or people might influence them. 10. If awareness about the punishment by the law for suicides created, will there be a a fall in the rates? Yes, absolutely. They are not aware of the consequence. It may have an impact if they knew them. They will think twice before committing suicide. But it might also make them aggressive, which will result in instantaneous death.

Preventing Suicide A Resource for Media Professionals

(WHO and International Association for Suicide Prevention) Quick Reference

Take the opportunity to educate the public about suicide. Avoid language which sensationalizes or normalizes suicide, or presents it as a solution to problems. Avoid prominent placement and undue repetition of stories about suicide. Avoid explicit description of the method used in a completed or attempted suicide . Word headlines carefully Exercise caution in usin photographs or video footage. Take particular care in reporting celebrity suicides. Show due consideration for people bereaved by suicide. Provide information about where to seek help. Recognise that media professionals themselves may be affected by stories of suicide.

Newspaper Articles

The Hindu, Sept 11th, 2013

Times of India, Sept 19th, 2013

The Hindu, Sept 4th, 2013

Sample Questionnaire DJ ACADEMY OF DESIGN DEVELOPMENTAL COMMUNICATION CREATING AWARENESS AGAINST SUICIDE AMONG ADOLESCENTS Name : Age : Occupation: 1.What are your thoughts on suicide? 2. Do you have a basic idea of the suicide statistics of India? 3.What do you think are the reasons for a sudden rise in the number of suicides committed among teens? 4. Every day, 15 people commit suicide in India. Do you think knowing this statistic will encourage more kids to take the step? If not, why? 5. In India, suicide and attempts to commit suicide are considered punishable offences by the law with a jail sentence of 1 year or a fine and in some cases both. Were you aware of this? 6. Do you think creating awareness of the above fact will lead to the decrease in the number of suicides? If not, why? 7. Do you know of anyone in your immediate circle that has been depressed or has had suicidal tendencies? If yes, how has this affected you? 8. What according to you is the best way to approach an adolescent who is depressed or having suicidal tendencies? 9. Hypothetically, if you were depressed, who would you go and talk to about it? 10. How important do you think relationships are? Could be with parents, friends, boyfriend/girlfriend, sibling, etc. 11.What media will be the best way to get across this message to adolescents? Eg. Posters, Bookmarks, Film, Games, etc.

Analysis of Data The survey was conducted among 23 literate adolescents between the age group of 12-18. The survey group consisted of 12 girls and 11 boys.

Question 2.

Question 1.


7 Not a joke

Sign of Weakness


Bold Act Bad Sense of Judgement Helplessness Illegal

Cry for help



Question 3.

Question 4.











Peer Competition Love

Family Society


Question 5.

Question 6. Depends






6 7



Analysis of Data The survey was conducted among 23 literate adolescents between the age group of 12-18. The survey group consisted of 12 girls and 11 boys.

Question 7.


No Yes


Question 8. 12 10 8 6 4 2 0

Question 9.



Give them Refer them to people who may be able to help reading material

Question 10. Not at all


Moderately Very



Mother and Friends - 23 10

Question 11.

8 6 4 2 0



Newspaper Illustrations

Anything that grabs attention

Won't help

Suicide Helpline Sneha is a Chennai based 24 hour suicide helpline that not only answers anonymous suicide calls, but also has self-help groups for rehabilitation and also groups to help people who have lost loved ones to suicide to come to terms with their loss Helpline : 91 44 24640050 Email :

Aasra is a non-political, non-religious and non sectarian organization located in Mumbai that offers active listening, ie non-judgemental, non-critical listening to anyone who would like to avail their services. Helpline : 91 22 27546669 Email :

Another such helpline is Maithri. Located in Kerala, this too, like the other helplines encourages for face-to-face visits, phone calls and letters from people who may be distressed, have anxiety or any other problem. Helpline : 91 239 6272 Email :

Outcome Target Audience – Literate, adolescents between the age group of 12 to 18years, who may or may not be depressed/suicidal and their parents. The basic message – The message to be conveyed from this pro ject has 3 parts : Suicidal thoughts/depression can be over come with a little help. Suicide is a selfish act. The importance of communication between parents/friends/guaridians and the children.

Medium Medium – A suicide prevention kit that can be bought by parents/guardians of children who may be depressed. The kit will contain a set of 4 postcards that the parents/guardians may give to the adolescent. This will help to breach a conversation to talk about any suicidal thoughts that the kid might have, encouraging them to speak up about it. The kit will also contain a small booklet that will help the parent/ guardian to identify the signs of depression in their children and tips to handle the situation properly and how to get timely help. This will be followed by a series of short 1-2 min films featuring people who has lost loved ones to suicide to be aired on Youtube and film theatres.

Internet References

DJ Academy of Design

DC - Research Document  
DC - Research Document  

A compilation of the research I did for a project in Developmental Communication, on Suicide Awarness amongst teens.