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Suicide Watch: Why Russian Teens Are Killing Themselves

It was a story that sent shivers down any Russian parent’s spine. Over the course of six months, 130 teenagers opposite the country were reported to have killed themselves underneath the influence of suicide masterminds handling within the social network VKontakte.

Novaya Gazeta, the liberal weekly journal that published the story, claimed puzzling “leaders” had combined a whole network of closed open communities. The predators challenged propagandize kids with creepy puzzles and assigned “death dates” to those successful in solving them. When the dates came around, children, deftly manipulated into playing the game, committed suicide.

“Children are being worked on in amicable networks, pushed closer and closer to the edge, and this work is systematic and carefully planned,” the article claimed.

The story — patrician “Groups of Death” — immediately perceived some-more than 1.5 million hits, and sparked a media storm. Some commentators indicted Novaya Gazeta of exaggerating the problem, and expressed fear that the story would customarily enthuse authorities to impose some-more restrictions on the Internet, the standard greeting nowadays.

Indeed, officials seemed prepared to jump on their favorite hobbyhorse. The flamboyant children’s ombudsman Pavel Astakhov announced that the Internet and communications systems were melancholy children in ways never seen before. The infamous author of the supposed “gay promotion law” Yelena Mizulina, now a Federation Council senator, due fining amicable networks for having suicidal content.

Novaya Gazeta’s terrifying claims are nonetheless to be accurate and confirmed: Russian law coercion launched a large-scale review of VKontakte communities and their tie to teenage suicide. Follow-up investigations by other media outlets resolved that many of Novaya Gazeta’s story was embellished. The Lenta.ru news website reported that ill-famed VKontakte communities were not aiming to force children to commit suicide. Rather, they were run by nerdy teenagers spooky with accumulating likes and shares, Lenta.ru said, and publishing “shocking content” about self-murder helped them expostulate trade to their online groups. Such efforts did outcome in suicides, the investigation reported, though not hundreds of them.

Nevertheless, girl self-murder rates in Russia have for many decades been among the highest in Europe, and the Internet alone can't be blamed.

For some, it might be the best mode of providing help.

Underlying Causes

Government targets are already in place to reduce the suicide rate in Russia to under 16 people per 100,000 people by 2020. By this criteria, the government can explain some success — the average rate national is around 16-17 suicides per 100,000 people. But these total are not uniform opposite the country, and this is a problem, says Yevgeny Lyubov, conduct of the self-murder dialect of the Moscow Psychiatric Science Institute. “The conditions here is some-more than worrisome: in some tools of the nation we are articulate about 100 or 200 suicides per 100,000 people,” he says.

Risks customarily greaten in rural areas nationwide, northern and far eastern regions — places where the social and economic conditions is worse.

As Russia’s self-murder rate places it in the top-three in Europe, it is not startling that the girl self-murder rate is also one of the highest, says Matthjis Muijen, mental health module manager at the World Health Organization’s Europe office. “There’s clearly something going on in Russian-speaking countries that creates stress and unhappiness. You don’t usually dedicate suicide, it’s a pretty large preference to make,” Muijen told The Moscow Times.

Suicide among teenagers is radically an anomalous greeting to often typical events. In 90 percent of cases, basin or certain impression features, like endless impulsiveness, is an underlying condition that drives a teenager to commit suicide. Common assumptions that a child killed himself since of bad grades in school or an unhappy adore story are wrong. “Bad grades and unhappy adore stories occur to all of us,” says Lyubov. “If these use trigger suicide, it means that the teenager has been pang from depression or had specific impression traits that led him to react to a dire eventuality in this manner.”

Russian children are apropos lonelier these days, says Yelena Shumakova, a supervisor at Your Territory Online, a foundation that provides unknown online consultations to teenagers in trouble.

“Kids used to spend some-more time at school, participating in different after-school activities,” she says. “There used to be a lot of free workshops and studios and classes, and children had some-more friends and more mentors they could speak to. Now they spend many of their time alone with their computers.”

Those of them who strech out to suicidal communities online feel deserted by their family or friends, if there were friends to begin with, says Lyubov: “A family can demeanour happy and wealthy from the outside, though if a child joins a suicide community, it means there’s been a serious miss of understanding in the family. He is fundamentally looking for that bargain in these communities. He’s looking to socialize, to be partial of a organisation again and follow someone’s example.”

Age-standardized self-murder rates, as of 2012

First Aid Online

Banning such communities and websites is doubtful to solve the problem, if customarily since new ones will fill the void. At the really least, supervision should emanate opposite online conference platforms to help immature people in trouble.

Lyubov suggests the Internet is, in fact, an ideal medium, by that to reach teenagers. “First assist in one click — that is what teenagers would understand. Hotlines are not for them: Only 5 percent of suicidal teenagers write hotlines for help. Something that connects teenagers to professional psychologists, and to their peers as good is what is needed. It is really useful for children to see how their peers survived dire experiences, how they dealt with formidable situations.”

Shumakova of Your Territory Online agrees. “Children are already there anyway, so because not move assistance directly to them?” she says.

Your Territory Online started out as a VKontakte group, and two years ago incited into an online height with a dozen consultants on call any day — from afternoon compartment late at night. In 2015 they helped 392 teenagers with suicidal thoughts. “The suicidal state is like a tunnel — a child in that state can’t see things clearly, and first of all we need to carefully travel him out of the tunnel. Only afterwards will he be means to talk about the problems that led to suicidal thoughts,” says Shumakova.

Online consultations are common use in Western countries, though are nonetheless to gain recognition in Russia, she adds. “However, we can see that authorities are starting to consider it useful. For example, officially, the children’s ombudsman’s bureau in the Leningrad segment customarily has a hotline, though they accept a lot of online messages from children in trouble, and try to help by corresponding with them,” says Yekaterina Fyodorova, executive of the foundation.

In addition to rare projects like Your Territory Online, there is a number of unofficial VKontakte communities that also work with teenagers. One of the many eminent is Deti-404 (Children-404), founded by LGBT romantic Yelena Klimova. Deti-404 helps LGBT teenagers who find it tough to cope with all kinds of problems associated to their passionate orientation.

“There are no central statistics on how many LGBT teenagers dedicate suicide, though Deti 404 receives at least 4 to five letters any week from kids with suicidal thoughts,” Klimova told The Moscow Times. Volunteers at Deti 404 contend they know of at slightest 24 teenage suicides associated to LGBT intolerance. “Authorities don’t caring at all about LGBT teens, though at least they have a few places on the Internet they can strech out to for help,” Klimova says.

An Indifferent State

Repeated requests for comments on what measures authorities take to prevent girl suicide — sent to both ombudsman Astakhov and State Duma emissary Olga Yepifanova, conduct of the cabinet for affairs of families and children — went unanswered by the time the article went to press.

Experts, in the meantime, determine that the state does not do much.

In big cities like Moscow and St. Petersburg, things are not that bad, says Fyodorova, though outward of the cities roughly zero is being done. “In cities at least NGOs are there to help, though [it’s a different picture] when it comes to rural areas,” she says.

A great understanding can be finished to prevent self-murder among immature people. For example, identifying basin on early stages could change the situation drastically. “School children bear medical examinations any year — because not chuck in screening questions to establish depression? Especially for children aged 14-16 — they are at a aloft risk,” says Lyubov from the Moscow Psychiatric Science Institute. After that, propagandize psychologists, or even psychiatrists, could work with the troubled teenagers.

Yet, rather than behaving and tackling the problem systematically, authorities are happier “creating hype” when something comfortless happens, says Lyubov. “But after a while it dies down and they forget about it until the next comfortless incident.”

The hype around the Novaya Gazeta review appears to be failing down already. Several online communities mentioned in the news have been close down by law enforcement; others continue to exist and attract users.

Will the government do something constructive to help exposed teenagers? So distant customarily the VKontakte ruling physique has acted: They posted adverts and links for the Your Territory Online plan in suicidal groups, and called on users to reach out for help. 

Article source: http://www.themoscowtimes.com/article/570249.html