More action needed to prevent suicides

The suicide note that the 12-year-old boy sent as a cellphone message to his mother before he hanged himself last Sunday morning could have broken any cold-hearted parent.

Thrice, the Grade 7 student told his family to always take care of themselves.

Reminding them to always eat on time, he asked for forgiveness from his mother for whatever wrongdoing he committed and justified what he would do, saying that this would somehow lessen the family expenses.

He was the second resident of the farming village to take his own life; last Dec. 14, a 50-year old jobless man also hanged himself.

Actually, a reliable source claimed, the Sunday incident was the third in recent weeks, with another 12 -year-old boy rescued from a similar fate by his frantic family.

Until now, concerned authorities, except for the administration of Virac Mayor Samuel Laynes, have yet to offer an explanation on the spate of suicides and self-harm incidents that began last year.

Is this an offshoot of the youth’s preoccupation with how others view them on social media or is it the result of the gradual breakdown of once close family relationships that have been eroded by lack of personal communication?

Too often, people have gotten used to deciphering the intentions of their friends as expressed in largely impersonal electronic messages, instead of getting the face-to-face version that comes with the full range of emotions any human being has.

This lack of personal interaction has contributed, it seems, to the feeling of being left alone, with no one to turn to, that torment persons in emotional and mental distress.

According to the Provincial Health Office, all 11 municipalities have mental health programs being handled by their respective Rural Health Units (RHUs).

The island’s lone licensed government psychiatrist, Dr. Gibson Gabitan, working closely with the mental health clinics at the Juan M. Alberto Memorial District Hospital in San Andres and the Gigmoto District Hospital.

Just last week, the Department of Health awarded JMAMDH a plaque of recognition and P100,000 prize for having the Best Mental Health Program Implementation among Bicol towns.

But Dr. Gabitan cannot do it alone and neither can the RHUs, who have enough health programs to implement on their own.

The situation points to the need for a grassroots program to develop and safeguard the emotional psychological and social well-being of the youth so they could successfully navigate the complexities of life, develop fulfilling relationships and easily adapt to change especially at this time of rapid technological development.

With the national government finally releasing guidelines covering the grant of honoraria to Sangguniang Kabataan officials, there is hope that the SK would consider a partnership with Dr. Gabitan and his crew of mental health specialists in the RHUs.

If the SK, with guidance from Gabitan & Co., would be able to craft and implement programs, projects and activities that will enable vulnerable youth to resort to proper coping mechanisms in confronting change and life’s problems, then youths in distress could be saved.

If the Sangguniang Kabataan still prefer costly basketball tournaments and barangay pageants, perhaps it would be time for the government to reconsider that persistent call for the abolition of the village youth councils.

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