The death wish

A SHOCKING poll survey has revealed that over 10 per cent of Taiwan’s college students attempted suicide in the past year. According to the poll of 3,594 university students, 367 students — or 10.21 per cent — tried to take their lives unable to cope with life and its demands.

What makes young men in their prime end their life? Some of the factors discussed by the Taiwan Association of Clinical Psychiatrists, which conducted the study, include peer pressure and pressure to perform well in college etc. These suicidal tendencies, albeit extreme, are not peculiar to Taiwan. Young men everywhere in most urban societies in the time of globalisation face similar pressures and demands. The pressure to meet impossibly high goals set by their parents, peers and community and fears of failure are driving the young to extreme measures.

It’s not unusual in highly competitive societies like India to find students resorting to the extreme act in frustration over their academic performance. Some times even a reduced aggregate of marks and rank is enough for many a student to think of the unthinkable. It’s not as if these young people — some of them brightest of their generation — are afraid to face the world. Only they dread disappointing their loved ones who place them on a pedestal and then set often impossible to meet targets before them.

Besides, the glorification of success and demonisation of failure in most urban and modern societies is so excessive that failure is seen as a disgrace. Is it any wonder then that our young people are so obsessed with success and all that it brings with it?

In their preoccupation with ostensible success, modern societies often ignore the price such a mad pursuit to reach the top extracts from individuals. Taiwan is a case in point. One of the fastest growing economies in the world, the tiny island nation is in the forefront of the wave of economic progress sweeping the region. But the breathtaking material progress obviously extracts its price. Taiwan has one of the highest suicide rates in Asia. Last year 3,468 Taiwanese killed themselves, averaging about 10 suicides per day, at a rate of 15.31 suicides per every 100,000 people. Among them, medical students recorded highest percentage — 14 per cent — of suicides.

It is perhaps time for us to slow down a bit and question ourselves if we really need to drive ourselves and our young so hard in pursuit of a fleeting phenomenon called success. Why is it always important to reach the top? What defines success and failure? And why are we so hard on those who can’t make it to the peak considering the fact there’s never enough room at the top? Perhaps it’s time to find answers to these questions relevant to all of us. But never mind if you fail to!

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