She was mocked by other kids about her looks, height and weight all her life. She was constantly reminded of how fat, tall and ugly she is and every time she goes to bed she hears all those voices of criticism.
Amber (not real name), an 18-year-old from Windhoek, is often trying to get away from a life situation that seems impossible to deal with. The teenage mockery Amber went through at school made her not like her life anymore. She feels like she does not fit anywhere and she never looks forward to waking up the next day. All she wants is to die and not exist.
Amber’s state has become so bad that it came to a point where she would make jokes about hanging or shooting herself. She often talks about having no reason to live and refuses to talk to anyone about her situation, because she believes what she is going through is normal.
Relatives have taken her to see a psychologist, but it just worsened the situation to the point where she started starving herself. She hardly eats as she feels she’s obese, while she’s just a size 6. Her attitude towards people is very negative and the presence of people irritates and annoys her.
On the other hand, Jason (not real name), a 23-year-old from Lüderitz who went through a comparable situation, says suicide attempts were something he was using to relieve himself of the burden of feeling like a victim and feeling ashamed.
“This is something I would like to keep to myself, a memory I don’t want to remember, but maybe it might help the next person. I recall the time when I overdosed, just because no one understood me. I used to fail and get low marks at school and they would call me all sorts of names and so forth. I got angry and just wanted to end it. But with help of my loved ones, the thought of suicide became a disgrace.”
“I’ve learned that people will always talk. They will insult or compliment you when it suits them, but that should not give you any reason to end your life. There are always going to be people who love you and those who hate you, but no one should be worth the end of your life.
“You can always try if you are not doing well in school, it’s never too late,” says Jason. He talked about how he overcame the thought of suicide, started thinking positively and going out to meet new people to get a different side of life.
“The moment I started ignoring and overcoming my fear of what people think or what they might say about me, I saw a different aspect of life. I noted down everything I wanted to achieve and things I should avoid, which would remind me of my past. I love my life, it is a gift from God that I plan to cherish, so should everyone else,” he says.
According to an piece by a psychologist published on drmayatherapy.com, suicidal people tend to get intense feelings of despair and hopelessness because it seems to them that they have lost control over their lives and that things could never get better.
Dr Maya says one may feel that the only part where she/he still has some control in her/his life is whether they live or die, and committing suicide may seem like the only option left.
However, this is never true. Statistics show that the majority of people who have attempted suicide and survived, ultimately felt relieved that they did not end their lives. Again, the suicidal thoughts are just an indication that one is in pain. However, hope and help is never too far way.
Psychologist Dr Shaun Whitaker says about three per cent of suicides in Namibia involve teenagers, with the most common reasons including failure in high school, relationship break-ups and family crises, such as divorce.
“As a society we put hopelessly too much pressure on teenagers to perform academically as if their lives depend on it. We should consider a more flexible approach to Grade 12. For example we should allow students to rewrite again in January or have bridging courses at the Namibian universities.
“It also does not serve much of a purpose to have these Grade 12 results in the newspapers as this leads to teaching to the exam paper, instead of enhancing critical thinking. We focus on the top ten students, but forget about the majority who might feel ashamed of their results. We seem to perpetuate the old colonial approach to education,” Dr Whittaker says.
He advises on the need to expand the life skills programmes in high schools to prepare young people for relationship break-ups or family crises, adding that there is an urgent need for a Suicide Prevention Centre in the country.
* Youth Corner will be running a series of articles on preventing suicide, especially among the youth. If you would like to share your stories or contribute or voice any issues of interest please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org