My Say

Help the Depressed, Not Taunt Them

By Jerry Francis

Thank goodness everything ended well. The 12-year-old girl S. Mahalachime had recovered from her bid to take her life, and had been given her MyKad which was the root cause for the attempted suicide.

Are we to be just content with the happy ending? Certainly, there is something we can learn from this near tragic episode. There are various versions of her plight, but it is futile to ascertain who was right or wrong. We should instead examine how a minor had been affected to the extent of her wanting to take her life and how society can help to prevent such cases in future.

According to psychiatrists the causes of teenage suicide, which is reported to be on the increase in the country, can be difficult to pinpoint and may involve several factors. Teens go through a vulnerable period at this stage in their lives. Among the major causes is bully-related suicide. It can be connected to any type of bullying, including physical bullying, emotional bullying, cyber bullying and sexting – or circulating suggestive or nude photos or messages about a person. No matter how small or big their problems, their troubles may feel unbearable or overwhelming.

Studies have shown that noticeable changes in behaviour, such as withdrawal from friends and family or violent and aggressive behaviour, are among the many signs of potential teen suicide, but parents and mental healthcare providers also need to understand the causes of suicide in teens for effective prevention.

It is likely that Mahalachime was suffering from emotional bullying as she was taunted by friends following her failure to get her MyKad approved. She has a birth certificate and was issued with MyKid. Her mother and her had gone to the National Registration Department merely to convert the MyKid to MyKad.

Yet, the NRD had delayed issuing her MyKad for over two months due to a certain technicality in her birth certificate. As a result, she could not register in a school and her hope to acquire a secondary education and be a teacher one day, seemed to her to have shattered.

Her friends should have recognised that she was under depression and help her to overcome it, not taunt her. “Everywhere she went, people teased her saying that she could never get her Identity Card and that her complexion was fairer compared to her parents,” said her 28-year-old aunt, M. Logalechumi, who had been taking care of her since she was six months old.

Getting no sympathy from friends, she decided to end her life and swallowed about 10ml of bleach in her aunt’s house in Taman Harmoni in Buntong here on November 23. Fortunately, the aunt discovered her writhing in pain and rushed her to the hospital.

If it had ended in tragedy, is society not responsible? The whole matter must be due to misunderstanding and misinformation. Of course the NRD has to follow its standard operating procedure before approving an application, but did its front-liners handle the case with care?

The girl’s mother, V. Kamlla, is not a highly educated person. She could have misconstrued the delay in issuing the MyKad to her daughter. So, as a concerned mother she spoke at a press conference. She claimed that the NRD had wanted her daughter to undergo a DNA test before they could issue her a MyKad because her daughter appears to having Chinese-Indian parentage instead of being Indian.

These claims were denied by the NRD, which stated that the department had not issued MyKad to the girl at the point of application as it needed to ascertain details in her birth certificate and had explained to the mother.

Following the incident, some people had unfairly blamed the mother for having driven her daughter to suicide by publicizing her case while others described the girl’s action as dangerous and akin to a threat, holding the NRD to ransom and should not be condoned or encouraged.

Well, at the speed the NRD had approved Mahalachime’s MyKad (within three days after her attempted suicide), I’m  beginning to wonder if the incident did not get into the limelight, would Mahalachime get her MyKad that fast, or would she have seen more delay?

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