Suicide, especially among young people, is sometimes called a “permanent solution to a temporary problem.” That is to say, young people who are experiencing difficulties may lack the perspective to know their problems will eventually come to an end, but that suicide is a permanent and irreversible decision to cut short one’s life. This may partially explain the fact that most suicides worldwide are among young people. In fact, in Saudi Arabia, 84 percent of suicides are among people under 35. Be that as it may, the more important fact is that the suicide of any individual, particularly a young person, is among the most tragic events that can possibly happen. Unfortunately here in Saudi Arabia, suicide is on the rise. Statistics from the Interior Ministry indicate that suicide have risen by 185 percent between 1994 and 2010.
What is causing this high rate of suicide, and what can be done about it? Of course, reasons are many as they are individual and complex. In the absence of targeted studies, some social commentators have speculated that the rise in suicide is related to troubled economic conditions and poor job prospects. Naturally lack of employment is a key factor, as it leads to a sense of hopelessness and lack of positive participation in society.
Youth, who perceive that they have nowhere to go, and no place for them in society, may choose to make that perception a reality in the most drastic possible way. We cannot control the economy, based as it is on global factors. But we can do our best to ensure that our youth feel included in the social fabric, and that they have an important role.
The fact is that many nations in history have survived challenging economic times without their population self-destructing.
Therefore another factor must be at play, and it is one that we have touched upon already — the youth lack the feeling of belonging, they feel unvalued, and lack the confidence and assurance that they have a meaningful contribution to make to society.
The current shift in values has led to a generation gap in which older and younger members of society find it increasingly difficult to relate to one another. This, perhaps, is where our attention ought to go — and not merely to try and force youth to conform to the values of their elders, because surely we have already seen the uselessness of such an exercise! Rather, parents must accept change as part of the fabric of society and of the family. We must maintain a neutral attitude, trying to discover how these changes are affecting our children, and what their view of themselves and their social role really is.
Finally, the current rise in suicides points to a pressing need for increased social services. We need accessible physiological and social counseling for the youth, suicide prevention hotlines and all-round awareness. Young people must be encouraged to seek help and taught to recognize that suicide is, in the end, anything but a simple solution to their troubles.