Over the past week in Russia, there have been several cases of teenage suicides and attempts to die. On February 4, a 13-year-old gymnast committed suicide in Rostov-on-Don. The body was found in a sports boarding school, where the girl studied since last year.
According to an acquaintance, she «was cheerful and kind, in the last school she had many friends.» However, the mother of one of the former students said that there was an «unhealthy atmosphere» at the school, because of which the woman once took the child out of there.
On February 8, in Magnitogorsk, the body of a tenth grader was found under the windows of a house, on the same day a 16-year-old schoolboy committed suicide in Chelyabinsk.
On February 9, a tragedy occurred in Samara, the bodies of 12-year-old schoolgirls were found at the entrance of a high-rise building. The incident shocked the city — the girls were friends, both were in good standing, studied well at school, and were brought up in wealthy families. One was engaged in gymnastics, the other was a fashion model.
“On all the shootings, I thought that if I had a daughter like that, it would be perfect,” later recalled the photographer Alla Kostomarova, who worked with the deceased schoolgirl. — She was the perfect girl. She is beautiful, with beautiful blond hair and a very bright soul herself. She was a solar angel. She always helped, shared with the guys treats that her mother carefully put in a container for shows, filming and auditions. She was patient, not capricious.
On February 10, under unknown circumstances, a 15-year-old schoolgirl fell out of the 7th floor in Minusinsk. She is in a coma, doctors are looking for blood for her. On February 11 in Moscow, three schoolgirls tried to commit suicide, they were rescued. The tragedy on the same day happened in the Krasnoyarsk Territory: a 9-year-old boy was found at home with signs of asphyxiation, one of the versions of the investigation was suicide. When everything happened, the boy’s mother and two more children were at home. While mom was busy with the younger ones, the elder was in his room. After some time, worried about the child, the mother entered the room and found the lifeless body of her eldest son.
There is no reliable confirmation that these cases are somehow related. We turned to psychologists and lawyers who are working with this problem, they did not agree on their estimates.
— I do not exclude that these cases may be related, the general ill-being of our youth has been going on for a long time. Children 12-14 years old are the most vulnerable, it is difficult for them to navigate the social situation, says psychologist Elena Morozova. — These are children who still have a low level of reflection — the ability to be aware of what is happening to them and find a way out. Our general environment does not help, but rather complicates their condition.
Elena Morozova — clinical psychologist, candidate of psychological sciences. Director of the Center for Psychological and Pedagogical Family Support «Useful Children»
“It is by no means possible to combine all these cases by any one reason,” explains the lawyer for civil and criminal cases Andrei Konyshev. — Earlier, when there was no Internet as such, schoolchildren had suicides because of personal tragedies. The problem of teenage aggression in our country is only growing, and new reasons began to be added to all this — drugs and the so-called «death groups» in social networks.
Keith fell asleep, the virus woke up
The problem of teenage suicide in Russia is one of the oldest: in the late nineties the country was among the leaders in the world, the average suicide rate of minors in Russia was more than three times higher than the average on the planet.
— If we take the general suicidal theme, from the beginning of the 2000s to 2015, we had a strong decrease in suicides. Something was changing in the country, people felt the prospects, but from 2014–2015, it was child and adolescent suicides that began to grow, ”cites Leonid Armer, psychologist and coordinator of the Youth Security Service project. — The reasons for adolescent suicides are different, ranging from mental disorders that were ignored by parents, and the children themselves were silent about them, to acute situational experiences that the adolescent psyche is not able to process. Add to this a heavy load at school, problems with peers, fear of the exam.
Leonid Armer — psychologist, coordinator of the Youth Security Service project. Since 2000, the public association has been helping law enforcement and oversight bodies to identify crimes in the field of drug trafficking, the activities of extremist and terrorist organizations, pedophiles, distributors of child pornography, informal youth associations and the activities of communities that negatively affect the minds of adolescents, including suicidal games and chats.
Since 2016, they started talking about the Blue Whale. Information about groups in which curators zombie teenagers, ask them to perform self-harm or dangerous tasks, and if they do not cope, order them to punish themselves even more sophisticated, and all this on the way to the last task — suicide, went viral in all families. Emergency meetings were held in schools, at which they told and warned about «death groups», the State Duma immediately introduced punishment for the creation of suicidal communities. In 2017, the trial of Philip Budeikin, the administrator of several death groups operating in different regions of the country, was loudly covered. Panic seemed to subside. In fact, the «blue whales» largely quieted down when the children themselves were «tired» of them.
The administrator of death groups, Philip Budeikin, was sentenced in 2017 to three years and four months in a penal colony
“That very first wave in 2016, by and large, was extinguished by the end of 2018 — the beginning of 2019 — it became“ unfashionable ”, children made fun of it more, odious curators were jailed,” says Leonid Armer. — 80 percent of the curators themselves were teenagers from 13 to 18 years old, they got by with special schools, treatment in neuropsychiatric dispensaries, registration, suspended sentences. In 2019-2020, everything was relatively calm, but with the onset of the coronavirus, we recorded a sharp increase in adolescents who want to become … curators in suicidal games. As soon as the school year ended — the decline, by the end of the summer, little by little interest began to grow. As soon as this whole coronavirus story with self-isolation and other things went, the state of the people worsened. Anxiety has increased, plus children «read» the state of adults. Watching the guys chatting, we notice that there has been a «blurring of the intelligible future.» The people do not quite understand: what will happen next? In no case should we combine all cases of attempted suicide.
Many associate the death of Samara schoolgirls with online communities — allegedly they were in a group where they were given assignments and watched prohibited anime. Investigators found the forbidden Death Note in their laptops among the schoolgirls who were injured in Moscow.
On January 20, 2021, the Kolpinsky Court of St. Petersburg banned the distribution of the Death Note anime. The film tells the story of a schoolboy, in whose hands falls a notebook, which allows you to kill anyone whose name is written there. When pushing for a ban, the prosecutor’s office noted that there is a propaganda of suicidal behavior in the anime.
— There are many studies showing that it is impossible to persuade a healthy child to commit suicide. Those children who go to suicidal games, groups, chats or just talk about such topics — they all come with background psychological disorders, Armer is convinced based on practical observations. — That is, the problem is not in the Internet as such, but in the child’s life situations, which make him perceive reality as hopeless. But already in chats, even without any curator, such children give each other negative reinforcement, which can worsen the condition and provoke a suicide attempt. Moreover, many of the same curators — organizers of the games still have the same suicidal thoughts, impaired perception of reality, borderline personality disorders (BPD), paranoid schizophrenia and other diseases;
First of all, parents should help children: spend more time together, try to make the relationship trustworthy, discuss the most serious issues. But the parents don’t have time. And even families where the parents are sure that the relationship is good are not insured either. Because children and adolescents often have a strange set of experiences as they grow up, and they react impulsively to everything.
Can school save a child?
Every time stories about difficult teens explode on the news agenda, adults grab their heads and start looking for the culprit. The second extreme after the Internet is often the school — where, they say, teachers look when such tragedies happen. But the Ministry of Education has not yet figured out how to deal with shooing (attacks by pupils on the school. — Ed.) — a manual for teachers should appear only this year. However, since last year, a different manual for teachers began to go to schools. It describes how to deal with suicidal tendencies in adolescents. Compilers — an institution that develops materials for the Ministry of Education. It is not necessary for schools to work on them, but it is desirable.
In short, this manual suggests several groups to be considered asocial and destructive:
radical groups of adolescents rejecting generally accepted rules and norms and striving for a total change in the existing order;
anarchonihilistic (punks, extremists);
nonconformal (protest) groups;
criminal gangs (gopniks) and traditional neighborhood teenage groups (courtyard companies).
But psychologists say this list is nothing more than a hi from the 90s. For today’s adolescents, it is no longer relevant.
— This is a kind of greetings from the 90s, when neighborhood groups were criminalized. In fact, in our reality, there are practically no neighboring groups of teenagers, — believes Polina Zelekson. — This indicates that the adults who made up this training manual are lagging behind modern culture. Yard companies do not exist, punks are also a thing of the past.
Polina Zelekson is a child and family psychologist, psychotherapist, gestalt therapist, and a recommended therapist at the Moscow Institute of Gestalt Therapy and Counseling.
School can become a problem in disclosing the causes of suicides, lawyer Andrei Konyshev is sure. In an attempt to preserve their reputation, the leadership of educational institutions is silent about the conflicts that could affect the tragedy.
“In 90% of cases, they try to hide the bullying in schools so as not to glorify themselves in a negative way, because this threatens dismissal and disgrace for leaders and responsible teachers, and then they don’t get a job,” says the lawyer. — Law enforcers only have to interview parents who used to take their children out of these schools and transfer them to others, so it is certainly pointless to hide the truth.
Separately, the manual proposes to follow social networks — again, a reference to the story with the «Blue Whale». Psychologists, on the other hand, believe that control is permissible, but not on the part of teachers, but on the part of the parents. Moreover, this cannot be done by force, forcing a teenager. We need a high level of trust with the child — so that he is not afraid to show his social networks, add parents as friends.
What psychologists really advise to take a closer look at is the atmosphere at home. Attempts to escape from their parents are the first sign that the child cannot cope with emotions and pressure and literally does not know where to run.
— The reasons for suicide can be very different outwardly. There is a lot of research related to the analysis of failed attempts and suicide notes. They all say that superficial stories were the motive, but the real reason was that the child felt disrupted social ties within the family. A teenager should feel loved, no matter who he is: who has not passed the exam, who came drunk. They will scold him, but they love him anyway. If this is not the case, then there is really a great risk of suicide, Zelekson is convinced.
That is, the responsibility for social ties should not be shifted to the school and comrades — close relationships should be primarily in the family.
“Be friends to your children, talk to them, do not preach, but listen to what they think and feel,” psychologist Elena Morozova addresses her parents. — And if children already know about these outbreaks of suicide, then it is necessary to discuss it with them. If this information worries you and you want to warn your child, you can start talking about these topics: how he would act, who would he ask for advice, in general, what is life and its values. That suicide is not an option. It is already possible and necessary to talk about all this with a 12-13-year-old child.