Suicidal teenagers, the expert: “The pandemic has put the boys to the test”

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Two dead teenagers and one very serious: in Milan, on the first day of school, there were three cases of suicide (one of which attempted). In Bollate, a 15-year-old girl fell from the balcony on the seventh floor of the apartment where she lived with her parents. Half an hour later, in the Cenisio area, a twelve-year-old at the beginning of the seventh grade fell from the window of her house and is fighting for her life at Niguarda. In the afternoon, in the Comasina area, another fifteen year old died falling from the balcony on the 12th floor of the building where he lived.

The Public Prosecutor’s Office of the Milan court is still trying to ascertain the reasons that may have prompted young people to commit suicide.

Meanwhile, however, “much research on pandemics and post-pandemics shows that the student population suffers from a high level of stress», Explains Dario Ianes, educational psychologist, co-director of the Erickson Study Center and professor at the University of Bolzano for pedagogy and special teaching. “Emotional problems, suicides, the burden of discomfort have increased. And, now, with the reopening, all that uncertainty is loaded with expectations. Which can be betrayed and represent yet another hard blow for children, frail from a difficult condition ».

Domestic violence has also increased in the past year and a half.
«Yes, situations of family fragility have also increased. The thermometer has overheated in many strata of the population, and now the children, limited by social distancing and marked by so many barriers, have to deal with the cumulative effect of so many hardships endured. The last straw is the one that breaks the camel’s back ».

Which ages are most at risk?
«Those of transitions: the period between middle and high school is at very high risk, because it is a phase of change of status, from a relatively protective school to another more competitive, tough, selective. But in all phases of change, even from Primary to Secondary, and for all middle school classes, the situation of young people is very delicate ».

What are the risk factors?
«The difficulty in communicating. Kids who communicate their discomforts don’t feel alone. Those who listen to them sympathize, help them find meaning in what they are experiencing, instill courage. On the other hand, if there is no anchorage, one closes oneself and becomes hyper vulnerable, one consumes inside. Contacts help to relativize problems, to find solutions ».

And what are the warning signs?
«If a child isolates himself, starts absent from school, abandons his activities and has a regressive, closing behavior, it is good to try to understand the reasons for his behavior. Until, however, a teenager goes out with friends, tries to be late, shows his vivacity, is living, and is not at risk ».

What can a parent do to prevent these situations?
“He must take care of the relationship with his son, give him all the attention he needs, show him that he is ready to protect him. In short, make him feel his presence, even if it is not invasive. Of course, no teenager is encouraged to confide if a parent swoops into his room and asks him to tell him what his problems are. For example, I try to create opportunities for dialogue with my children by accompanying them to the game by car: a quarter of an hour by car, alone, is a protected space. But even the professors must have radar and detect problems immediately ».

Can teachers also make a difference?
“Surely. Don Milani used to say that the school has only one problem: the children it loses. Spasmodic attention not to lose anyone is necessary. Above all not to lose them in this way ».

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