CC ombatting teen and young adult suicide has taken on added significance during a time of global social disruption. Media reports note growing incidents of suicide and self-harm in the wake of lockdowns, quarantines, and the disruption of daily life as it was before the pandemic.
Seventh-day Adventist young adults in Brazil are doing their part, instituting a “Wave of Good,” or “Onda do bem” in Portuguese, to encourage their peers.
Because yellow symbolizes happiness, the youths selected it to represent the campaign, to bring the message that it is possible to overcome depression. Although suicide among adolescents and young people is an increasingly present problem, attention to mental health is one of the ways to contain this practice.
Inspired by this message, teenagers from all over the Brazilian states of Bahia and Sergipe are engaged in “Yellow September,” a monthlong anti-suicide campaign. The challenge launched through the church’s Base Life Teen program (communities of teenagers who meet weekly) and was designed to motivate and help those in need of emotional support.
Defined as “Onda do Bem”, the main idea is to show other people the value that each one has, which was given by Jesus Christ. The leader of teenagers for both states, Eliane Lopes, promoted the challenge through the official social network of Base Life Teen and encouraged all participants to carry out at least three good actions. “The month of September is known as the month of the greatest campaign on self-esteem, mental illness and suicide. For this reason, we challenge teenagers to take the time to reflect on how we are spending time, highlighting the defects and errors of the people we know, and turning this time into an opportunity to highlight the qualities and successes,” she pointed out.
Eliane also stressed that this challenge was given to all members of the bases, from teachers, principals, to students. The campaign is moving social networks honoring people, through messages on WhatsApp and Instagram posts, reinforcing the message that everyone is special to God.
In one of the videos, the young people reinforced the idea that “depression is not synonymous with a lack of God” and guide people who feel alone to seek help through chats, video messages and toll free by calling 188, a special Brazilian hotline. In another video, a young man recites, in the form of poetry, the importance of life. These and other actions can be followed through the hashtag #EuMeImportoComVC
Anxiety, depression and suicide
A survey conducted by research firm Datafolha pointed to increased anxiety and sadness in young people during the pandemic.
According to the survey results, “The lack of motivation, which in May reached 46%, reached 51% in July. Those struggling to maintain their routine jumped from 58% to 67%. The percentage of those who are sad began to be measured in June, when it reached 36%, and increased to 41% in July. In the same period, the number of irritated patients increased from 45% to 48%. There are 74% of those who feel sad, anxious or irritable.”
The study also revealed that young people, in addition to their frustrations, have hormones at their fingertips; that children who previously reported no issues ended up developing problems in the pandemic. And there are those who already faced difficulties and got worse in the face of so much instability, psychiatrist Lee Ful, coordinator of the Childhood and Adolescent Mood Disorders Clinic at Hospital das Clínicas, told sinep.org.
According to the World Health Organization (WHO) in 2016, suicide was the second leading cause of death among young people, with 75% of cases occurring in middle and low income countries. Also according to the Waiselfisz Violence Map, in Brazil the suicide mortality rate is just behind the homicide and traffic accident rates. For the psychologist Emelliny Sandes, these “are alarming data, since they refer to phases of development that are popularly considered as the“ height of life.”
She also stressed it is important to identify the psychological problem from the beginning. “This becomes essential for the help of the teenager. Family support, attention, and openness to dialogue, facilitate knowledge about the situations that are involving young people or adolescents, and in this way professional treatment will have guidelines that favor the prevention of more aggravating situations,” she said.
Family relationships, care and affection help parents to identify and be aware of factors that may be leading adolescents to an exhausting state of mental health. For Emelliny, another important factor is "the openness to dialogue, the encouragement to practice physical exercises, the consumption of good foods, the care with the quality of sleep and the encouragement to form good friendships and social bonds."
Tips to help teenagers
Still in the context of professional help, therapist and doctor in psychology Evellin Duarte Rius listed some facts that should be observed:
- Suicide tells a story; it is directly related to the experiences and meanings constructed throughout life. The teenager who tries to commit suicide does not want to end his life: he wants to end the pain, the suffering, which at the moment is unbearable;
- Having a support network made up of friends, family, teachers, church and community and attentive to the functioning of this adolescent/young person facilitates early risk identification. Eighty percent of cases are expressed by the individual. So be aware; do not consider it normal or a joke. Listen without judging and accept; all threats must be taken seriously. Specialized treatment is essential;
- A healthy experience of spirituality also contributes to the process of regulating mental health. Feeling safe, welcomed, loved, accepted, understood, having a look of hope are frequent needs in crisis situations. Feeling all this through a healthy spirituality, a safe family relationship is important in both prevention and treatment.
For Evellin, another point to be aware of is the constant use of social networks. “Teens who are addicted to social media are three times more likely to develop depression compared to people who spend less time online. In addition to the amount of consumption, we need to consider the nature of that consumption. The use of social networks associated with cyberbullying , social isolation, disconnection from reality, excessive exposure to intimacy, unrealistic expectations, procrastination are highly harmful and risky. Get help,” she recommended.
If you need help in this regard, you can count on the Adventist Church's Heard Friend Project . The project that aims to offer free online psychological counseling with volunteer professionals.
Editor’s Note: In the United States, if you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, reach out for help. The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline is open 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.