A study just completed at the UMH (Universidad Miguel Hernández) has found that suicide is the second leading cause of death in the Alicante Province among people who are under 30s years of age.
Experts say that this is a reality that has been ignored for many years, but one that increasingly worries the authorities as the numbers continue to rise.
The result was released just a week after a Malaysian teenager asked on Instagram if she should take her own life, which she did after 69% of her followers answered ‘yes’. This once again highlights just how important a part social networks are now playing in this problem.
The professor of Psychology of Health and director of the Aitana Group of the Miguel Hernández University of Elche, which studies the psychological problems in children and adolescents, José Pedro Espada, said that “here in Alicante we have not yet found any cases of adolescents who express suicidal ideas on social networks”. He said that the case of this minor “fortunately is very rare.” However, it warns of the danger of teenagers being bullied, harassed or teased through networks, which can cause problems of self-esteem, anxiety and depression, especially among young people. He also highlighted the risk whereby minors frequent Internet forums in which a vision of suicide is offered as a release, a freedom or as a romantic idea.
However the influence of social networks on suicides in adolescents has still not been sufficiently studied, but the National Institute of Statistics offers data of this harsh reality.
In 2017, 397 people committed suicide in the Valencian Community, of which 25, close to 6%, were under 30 years old. Two were under 15 years of age. In the Valencian province there were 147.
The previous year there were 336 people who died from suicide in the Community, of which 23 were between 15 and 29 years old.
As such, suicide is now established as the second highest cause of death in this age group, just below traffic accidents, which took the lives of 37 young people under 30 years of age in the Community in 2017.
The research group Espada states that Spain has the lowest suicide rates in Europe, but it also says that the results of their studies are alarming. Of 221 secondary school students in the province who were questioned, 12.8% showed suicide risk. 13.8% had depression and 12.4% low self-esteem, a total of 39%. The relationship between depression, low self-esteem and suicidal risk “is clear,” they say in the study. That is why they have warned of the urgent need to implement preventive programs in schools, as well as carrying out studies with much larger samples which will enable them to better identify methods of early detection.
They add that, of the risk factors in young people and adolescents, family and couple problems are the most frequent causes. In younger children, situations of bullying that lead to helplessness and depression are also situations that can predispose to suicide.
Depression is a disorder associated with suicide, although not all people who commit suicide suffer from it with Espada warning that in the case of children and adolescents it is more difficult to detect. It can occur due to a psychic disorder but it is also prevalent in situations of abuse, serious problems at home and bullying.
The coordinator of La Esperanza in Alicante, a charity similar to our own Samaritans, Germán Ricardo, said that last year they had 1,200 calls related to suicide. Of them, about 50 had a concrete plan to carry the suicide out, while three people were actually committing suicide at the time.
La Esperanza “The telephone of Hope” has also been involved in the Prevention Plan launched by the Ministry of Health, one of the first to be implemented in Spain.
Unfortunately one other organisation “The Life Suicide Prevention platform,” which is driven by computer researchers from the University of Alicante (UA), say that their work has been halted due to a lack of funds. The principal investigator, José Manuel Gómez, explains that they have already proven their success rate, which is currently 74%, and would increase if they could continue with the work.
“It is proven that people use certain phrases or use certain words and that social networks are a very valuable source of information since most young people use them,” he says.
The system they have devised is “very laborious because it has to learn and then be able to detect messages of risk, and many examples are needed. In addition, we do it in Spanish and English so that we are available to more people, “adds Gómez.
For two years they had funding from the BBVA Foundation, but it was cut last year and the researchers have been unemployed since last September. ”
He says that he is extremely disappointed that the project, which could help thousands of people around the world, has had to be shut down when only one more step remains before it can be successfully implemented once again.