Teacher urges more parental vigilance over possibly suicidal children

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By Latrishka Thomas

Desperate measures may need to be employed to prevent youngsters from yielding to suicidal thoughts, said a local educator, as she urged parents to be on the lookout for any signs that their children may be entertaining such ideas.

Teacher, writer and womens’ rights activist, Zahra Airall, on Sunday, spoke about her observations, warning that youngsters may be masking serious internal struggles.

She is appealing to parents to be vigilant.

“The number of cutters we have in Antigua and Barbuda, and they’re not just female. I’ve seen boys’ arms with cuts, and I appeal to parents: check your children. It’s not children who are coming from broken homes, so to speak. It’s not necessarily only children who are coming from single-parent families. It’s not only children who are coming from places where they are using drugs.

“You are seeing children who are ‘A’ students. You are seeing children who are prefects. You are seeing children who are very active in the church and their community. You are seeing children who are coming from affluent families,” she said.

Airall, while further illustrating that the issue is far-reaching, went so far as to suggest that parents should physically check their children for self-inflicted cuts and bruises.

“We tend to think that some of these things like suicide, cutting, drug use, are only from a particular type of person or from a particular type of background. I ask parents all the time, when your kids are asleep go into their bedrooms, look at their arms, look under their arms, look between their toes, look at their thighs, their inner thighs, because they will cut elsewhere so that they don’t draw attention,” the activist said while recalling a time when she noticed a student hiding marks on her inner-arm.      

Moreover, she said, it is also important to check a child’s cellular phone for evidence of cyber-bullying.

“And I just want to take a time-out right now to ask parents to please check on their children. If you bought the phone, if you’re topping it up, if they’re living with you, check the children’s phones. Parents of daughters sometimes you think that you are looking for the boys; check their girlfriend’s messages. Check the WhatsApp groups that they’re in; look at how they are talking to each other because your child might be suffering in silence and does not even know how to open up to you. It is ludicrous, “she said.

Airall, however, did not lay blame to anyone in particular. In fact, she also called on the Cyber Police Unit to ramp up their efforts to combat cyber-crimes among youngsters.

“Now we have to deal with cyber-bullying and I keep asking, ‘We have a Cyber Police Unit, where are they? What are they doing?’ I was listening to some voice notes the other day and I’m like, ‘This is how little girls are talking to each other?’” the teacher exclaimed.

She said the derogatory terms used by some of these youths portend a scary future.

This renewed focus on suicide and other teen-angst issues came about after a story broke that a 25-year-old woman attempted to kill herself on Sunday 8th September because her ex-boyfriend regularly allowed their five-year-old daughter around his new girlfriend. That was what the 25-yr old woman reportedly said.

According to the woman’s roommate, when she arrived at their Pigotts Village home, she knocked on the bedroom but the woman refused to answer.

She said that she then called the police and the woman’s mother, and when they were finally able to pick the lock open, the woman was found lying on her back with several small razor cuts across her hand.

It was said that the young woman also attempted to kill herself by ingesting Cetamol, Ibuprofen, and antibiotics.

She was taken to the hospital for treatment but was later discharged.

Tuesday September 10th was observed globally as World Suicide Prevention Day. 

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