Last night, out of concern with regard to the spate of reports about kids who are said to have committed suicide, I decided to speak to my eight year old boy about this matter.
We conversed in our mother tongue, isiXhosa. However, I’ll translate the talk we had into English. Here it goes:
Me: “Ndodenkulu, what is suicide?”
He awkwardly pondered the question for some time, gave me an uneasy look and eventually said: “It is when someone kills himself. Like taking a rope and hanging oneself.”
This ‘know it all’ kind of answer threw me a bit. I didn’t think that he would be so clear on the issue. Moreover, he was making the proper gestures to demonstrate the process of hanging. All I could manage at that point was a startled: “Is it?”
After regaining my composure, I went on to ask: “Why do you think people would do such a thing Ndodenkulu?”
With a deep sense of authority on the matter, he confidently and calmly responded: “You see dad, when someone makes you angry, really really angry, the anger in you makes you to go away, find a place where it is quiet, then you take a rope and hang yourself.”
At this simple yet crude piece of revelation, I felt a cold feeling of fear gripping my heart. I looked at my eight year old, saw the simplicity of such an act in his answer and pictured him putting this into action while engulfed in a fit of anger.
I shuddered at the realisation that our kids could see suicide as a way of settling even a temporary emotion like anger. Add other emotions such as disappointment, fear, sadness, loneliness etc. to the list and the reasons/temptations for our kids to commit suicide multiply exponentially.
“Will you, when you are angry, also do it, Libele.”
I tried to sound as measured and indifferent as I possibly could when I asked that question. Inside, I was a mess of emotion as I awaited his reply.
“No ways, Tata! When I’m angry I retaliate. I do the same to the one who angered me. After that, I feel alright again. Anyway, killing oneself is not right. It is wrong”.
I still need to work on the retaliation part.
However, I was mightily relieved at the latter part of his answer.
So fellow parents, if we want to help our kids and stem this unnatural increase in child suicides, talk to them about it. Get their view on things. Engage them openly. It might help and if it doesn’t, you at least would’ve tried.
Last but not least, never discard the possibility that our kids are capable of committing suicide – yes, even the one whom you regard as an innocent, harmless and carefree Angel.