Why do kids commit suicide?

Renna Angeles (seated, second from right) hosted a birthday dinner for architect Conrad Onglao (standing,middle) with his close friends ( seated) Chingbee Kalaw-Cuenca,Wynwyn Ong, Jeannie Goulbourn, and (standing)Nick Locsin and Bobby Cuenca.
PHOTO: Why do kids commit suicide?

Why? Why do some people choose death over life, especially young people?

It's a question that will never be answered adequately, but will only get more intriguing with each re-asking and with each tragic news, Robin Williams being the biggest these past weeks.

Many believe suicide is brought on by clinical depression, when a chemical imbalance leaves one to lose control and drives one to give up on life. "Crossing the line" is how Alya Honasan put it in a personal essay last Sunday in Lifestyle. Alya's piece about her own battle with depression touched many people and drew an outpouring of feedback, from text messages to social media posts.

We never realised how many out there have been suffering from depression until Alya wrote her story and emboldened others to come out with their own episodes. (See related stories in this section.)

To a parent like me, stories of youngsters jumping to their death send a chill down my spine. They're enough to make any parent paranoid, no matter how normal things seem to be at home.

I don't recall my generation seeing suicides almost one after the other. I asked my ex-classmates if we had suicide cases in our batch that I just didn't know about. "None really," Este Santos said at our dinner last Monday. "It simply didn't cross our minds, it seemed," said Elsa Unson, an ex-batch mate who now runs a college. Our other ex-classmate, Malen Claravall, who's with Philippine Ballet Theater and runs her ballet school, agreed.

I turned to an older generation, Lifestyle S columnist Conchita Razon, if they saw some "crossing the line," so to speak, during her and her parents' time. No, she said. Perhaps because media wasn't as prevalent in their lives then as it is now, she said. By this she meant that news of suicides didn't spread as fast as it does now-not that media "causes" suicide, but experts say news of it (graphic details, particularly) could spawn copycats.


And, Conchita added, her generation didn't have violence in videos or movies. But it experienced a World War. At what point does one get desensitized to violence?

Such questions-relevant or not to suicide-may not have their ultimate answers. The point is, we think there seems to be more suicide cases among our young today.

Over dinner the other Sunday, I asked my sons if they agreed with this perception. Yes, said my younger son. His batch alone saw two cases the past year-a guy and a girl. The guy, my son said, had a fight with his girlfriend and was apparently drunk when he jumped off the balcony.

Could it be that they were estranged from their parents, I asked. Not that, my son said; the guy was particularly solid with his dad and even shared a hobby and passion with him.

My son gave his own "perhaps why"-perhaps it's because today's young generation has easy access to more dangerous drugs and alcohol. "Taking drugs and alcohol is their way of venting or escape or feeling good," he said, "and yet these same things warp your mind and drive you to do things."

That explanation makes sense. Life gets too hard at some point, whatever your age, and sometimes, the abuse of substances, which they thought could give them relief and release, do more harm than good.

Or, could it be that our young feel unbearably alone, even amid the crowd and their family and friends? Or, could it be this era is no longer God-centric, as religion is not necessarily taken up in schools? Is this generation not into spirituality? (But then there are some victims who come from Catholic schools.)

A friend gave this smart observation: "A priest told me about the couples he marries. They have everything filled up-sponsors, friends, even who their fashion designer or makeup artist is. But ask them who and if they have a spiritual counselor or a priest. None.

There's no one these young people can go to, for things other than the material."

Every parent, young and old, always has this nagging fear of losing a child, and greater fear to suicide.

What can you do? Nothing will ever be enough. Just always be around your loved one, even in silence. Talk and listen. One can only pray always, and hope that a parent has introduced God to the child, and vice versa, adequately, not only conveniently.

Don't miss 'Rabbit Hole'

Speaking of losing a child, Red Turnip's "Rabbit Hole" is theatre you shouldn't miss. I didn't see Agot Isidro as a very good actress until this Pulitzer Prize-winning play by David Lindsay-Abaire. It was my first time, I think, to see Agot onstage.

She and Michael Williams (as her husband Howie) and the rest of the cast-Sheila Francisco, Che Ramos-Cosio, Ross Pesigan-deliver a compelling performance under (relatively) young director Topper Fabregas.

And you can have your selfie on the set-an elaborately contemporary design by Faust Peneyra.

"Rabbit Hole" runs until Aug. 31 on weekends, at Whitespace, 2314 Chino Roces Ave. Extension, Makati.

Table talk

The table talk at architect Conrad Onglao's birthday dinner, which happened after Robin Williams' death, couldn't but start off with Bobby Cuenca's recollection of a friend's suicide not too long ago. Indeed, it made you realise that everyone knows of at least one suicide case.

Conrad's close friend Jeannie Goulbourn, seated beside us, noted that following Williams' suicide, reported by old and new media, the number of phone calls they have received at Hope Line had gone up by over 200 per cent. Hope Line is a hotline for people suffering from depression.

Since her daughter's death many years ago from depression, Goulbourn has immersed herself in foundation work to help people grappling with the same illness. On a visit to Cebu for a lecture, she noted that the city has seen many suicide cases, usually teens.

The talk, however, moved on to cheery and juicier topics. Conrad's good friend Renna Angeles and her husband Ed hosted the intimate and fun dinner in their home for the birthday boy. There were just a few of us around the table, and the bonding went on into the night. Steadfast and loyal-that's how I would describe Conrad's friends.

His girlfriend ZsaZsa Padilla wasn't able to catch up from her own dinner with her daughters. But the couple spent Conrad's actual birthday last Sunday together and went on a much-needed break.


We're seeing transitions. Rita Dy is retiring from Singapore Airlines after more than 30 years. The manager of marketing communications and services, Rita has become synonymous with SQ, and has brought a sizeable Filipino network to it.

One of her most unforgettable moments on the job was when she introduced President Cory Aquino to visiting SQ top executives, and the gracious Chief Executive hugged her like a long-lost friend, even if she wasn't really.

First on Rita's retirement agenda: a trip to Cuba.

It looks like the well-loved PR boss Charisse Chuidian won't be retiring, after all, even after Mandarin Oriental Manila closes next month. Charisse will hit the ground running to join a high-end establishment due to open this year. That is good news.

Another well-loved and fun lifestylista is fashion designer Randy Ortiz, who celebrated his birthday last Tuesday in a Makati restaurant.

We all got a laugh when Sen. Nancy Binay insisted that she have a photo with the celebrator, and said "Sayang," she should have worn the much-panned Filipiniana bubble skirt she wore at the SONA, which Randy designed.

The closeness of the senator and the designer makes for an endearing sight.

Heads turned when Marian Rivera walked in with fiance Dingdong Dantes. My eyes couldn't but hone in on her Birkin bag and the emerald-cut diamond engagement ring (a Harry Winston, it is said). A very handsome couple.

Samaritans of Singapore (SOS):1800-2214444
Singapore Association for Mental Health:1800-2837019
Sage Counselling Centre:1800-5555555
Care Corner Mandarin Counselling:1800-3535800