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Maladaptation, Deliberate Self-harm and Suicide among Adolescents

Submitted by on December 26, 2017 – 9:02 PM

wedwedAs we grow older, our level of stress and adaptation too changes. Early on, babies cry or cuddle with mother to get feed, or sleep, or whatever they need. In adolescence, children are prone to stress with academic work and later on, relationships. Adults have issues with earning, education and settling down, while the elderly often face health issues and major financial burdens after retirement.

Adaptation is a natural process to these stressors and is practiced and learnt throughout life. The major goal of youngsters relates to getting rid of the difficult situations quickly without any issues. The various maladaptive behaviors include drug addiction, smoking, anger, alcoholism, and most commonly: deliberate self-harm.


The reasons may include attention seeking, satisfaction generating, hurting self, advancing physical pain and ultimately ending life to end worries. Self-harm is resorted to by many teenagers in post-pubescent ages when hormones are at peak. Cutting self, making marks on skin, burning, eating poisons, drug overdose or drinking pesticide represent the most extreme forms of self-harm.


Many of them end up hurting themselves because of stress from poor relationships, low grades, sexual violence, parental conflicts or bullying. Financial issues, gender issues, diseases, social stigmas and blackmailing by acquaintances are noted causes of suicides among adolescents. Poor self-esteem, disturbed body image, role confusions and maladaptation are leading etiologies for self-harm in this particular age group.


Parents and caregivers should keep an eye on the following behaviors to avoid harsh circumstances with adolescents. These include: locking self in rooms, looking for sharp objects, singing depressed rhymes, familiarizing self with situations and equipment for self-harm or suicide, statements like “ I don’t want to survive”or “Give my pocket money to brother, when I will not remain here”, Cuts or burn marks on the body, saving drugs or medicines, approaching towards sharp items and attempting to self-harm. Keeping strings, ropes, pieces of clothes or linen in room etc. all these notifiable behaviors can be reported and urgent help should be sought.


“Case 1: A 14 year old girl was received in emergency room with projectile vomiting, family reported break-up with boyfriend and the girl drunk pesticides.”


“Case 2: A 17 year old young healthy male, smoker since three years, was involuntarily brought to psychiatric services for attempting suicide from the balcony of bungalow. He was saved by his father who was in the room at that time. The near-incident happened twice at college and home. His father shared that other classmates called him impotent over his behavior and he got disturbed.”


“Case 3: 10 year old boy attempted to cut himself with knife when his father beat him badly because of low grades in mathematics. The boy was brought to a nearby clinic and was managed with first aid treatment and later was referred to hospital with better facilities.”


“Case 4: 19 year old student of pharmacy reported to be abused by a professor frequently, without reporting to anyone at University, she took drugs with heavy dose during the class and was in critical situation in hospital ICU.”


“Case 5: 11 year old lay down on main road to be smashed under a vehicle as she felt that her parents did not love her.”

The above mentioned case examples exhibit basic preferences of suicidal and self-harm techniques like drug over dose, use of poison etc. along with factors associated and responsible for these unfortunate events. These situations sound dramatic but reflect real life scenarios happening today.


Therefore proper parental and child counseling should be organized and better mental health facilities should be available. Preventive measures include: parents managing time for children, schools minimizing study burden with innovative curriculum, and caregivers maintaining check and balance over children’s activities. Adolescent health services with experts should be made accessible. Mind diversion and routine involvement should be practiced. Personality development should start in early years of life. This can help in preventing self-harm cases or suicidal issues in adolescents in Pakistan and globally too.



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