- Published on Friday, 10 March 2017 15:33
KUALA LUMPUR: "A student fell from the building," my daughter who is studying at a private institution of higher learning messaged me via Whatsapp, recently.
The building is located not too far from the university and the sad part is, it was not the first such incident to have occurred there.
The first thing that crossed my mind after reading the message was it was 'no ordinary accident'.
The news saddened me and I felt terribly sorry for the unfortunate student.
What kind of pressures did the student face to the extent of her taking her own life at such a young age?
Based on my assumptions and reading of the situation, there could have been many factors that led to the student's suicide.
I was reminded of a conversation I had with a colleague about another university student, an only child, who had committed suicide.
Apparently, the student was very unhappy with the academic course his parents had coerced him into taking.
Severe depression can impel students to contemplate suicide as an 'apt' way to end their anguish.
In another case reported in the northern part of the country, depression drove a 21-year-old college student to hang himself. According to a press report dated Feb 21, it was his room-mate who found him hanged.
Then, there was the case of a Form Five student who, it was believed, hanged himself whilst the Sijil Pelajaran Malaysia (SPM) was going on because he was dissatisfied with the way he had answered his Additional Mathematics paper.
The harsh reality is that our school and university students are obviously facing all kinds of pressures and this is a matter that deserves prompt attention because all that stress can wreak havoc on their minds and bodies.
However, it will not suffice leaving it to the counsellor to help students to cope with stress... after all, how many students would care to express to a counsellor the emotional turmoil they are experiencing?
Find out and identify the source of their stress. To do this, you don't need to appoint a consultant. Rightly, this duty lies with the very people who are closest to them -- their parents.
Take a look at children these days -- as soon as they turn four or even earlier, they are enrolled into a nursery or kindergarten. This is the main recourse for working parents who have no one at home to take care of their kids.
And, never mind their tender age, they are expected to know how to read and count by their parents!
Later when they reach the schoolgoing age, there is a series of examinations awaiting them, from primary to secondary school, to evaluate their academic performance.
Of course, their parents have high hopes and expectations. They keep dreaming of a string of As, probably surpassing their poor child's own expectations. It is obvious that the focus is on academic achievement.
Children are bound to come under great pressure if they are constantly urged by their parents to 'score As... score As'.
Not to mention if the parents happen to be graduates and work as professionals, all the more they expect their offspring to follow in their footsteps and even, if possible, study in the father or mother's alma mater to perpetuate the family's tradition of excellence.
Schools, if you have noticed, not only have morning and afternoon sessions but also conduct tuition and religious classes, which can leave students feeling exhausted. Not surprisingly, one can sometimes see children returning home from school at nightfall.
Are parents seriously looking into this matter? The situation often gets worse when a major examination is approaching. Various additional classes, including tuition and workshops on how to tackle examination questions are lined up for the students.
But is anyone taking note of their physical and emotional well-being? Do their parents care? Ah, but this is only the school or elementary stage.
When it is time for the child to enter an institution of higher learning, do the parents use their 'veto power' to decide what course their son or daughter should pursue?
Some children end up doing what their parents dictate to them, only to flounder even before reaching the final year, and fail all the examinations.
Then there are those who choose to end their lives because they can no longer cope with the pressures of pursuing their higher studies in a field in which they have zero interest.
We have to pay serious attention to this matter in order to check the rising suicide statistics. Something must be done to help students who are under a lot of stress, as we don't want them to plunge into depression.
Some students may face a culture shock when they start going to college or university. They may even find it hard to adjust to their new surroundings and cope with their studies, much of which requires them to handle assignments and tasks independently.
Things can be worse if they go abroad for their higher studies as the culture shock may be even more intense. And, if they had been ace students previously, they would be expected to continue their track record in university, even if they are not capable of doing so.
But the high expectations of their parents, and even society, keep hanging over their heads and will take a toll on their emotional health, more so if they don't have anyone to confide in.
Some students may choose to 'run away from it all' when they can no longer deal with all that studying and examinations. Others may resort to taking synthetic drugs to 'forget' all their worries or even get lured into criminal activities -- and, eventually, find themselves behind bars.
It is sad how some students see suicide as an 'easy' way out of their misery. Parents, please spend enough time with your children and talk to them. Make an effort to dive into their heart and find out what their aspirations are. Don't just pin your hopes on them or spoil them with luxuries.
(This commentary expresses the personal views of the writer and do not reflect Bernama's stand.)