Are you a parent? If you are, we know what you fear most – you fear losing your child. Nothing on earth gives the worst pain, the most suffering than the loss of a child. Losing a child in any way at all, be it accident, illness or virus, is a great tragedy, but losing your child through suicide is beyond human comprehension. But it happens, especially to males. Globally, over 800,000 people commit suicide every year, and two thirds of these are males. In many countries, suicide is the third leading cause of death for young men. And the number of young males committing suicide is increasing, including in Vietnam.
Nam is just 13 years old. He is intelligent, determined and studious. He is a top student at a leading private school in Vietnam. At least he was, until the night he jumped from the 30th floor of his apartment block.
Nam’s parents will never recover from the shock of their eldest son’s suicide. It will be with them for the rest of their lives. They will never have the joy of seeing their son graduate from university. They will never be grandparents for his children. They will never relish spending Tet holidays with him. And they will never know why he killed himself, nor what they could have done to stop it.
What they do know for sure is that their son Nam was desperate. So desperate he no longer could stand living. They also know their son was resolute. Why? Because it takes resolve, determination – and intelligence – to commit suicide. It is often the highest achieving children who kill themselves.
For every child who does commit suicide, there are thousands who think about it. Which is a frightening fact for any parent to ponder over. But ponder over these questions we must –parents, educators, anyone concerned with the future of young people. Because clearly something is not quite right with a great many Generation Z and Generation Alpha children.
And that cannot be the fault of the children.
The aim of this article is not to frighten parents but to help parents. And we can start by turning some truths on their head and by asking some important questions.
The answer is fear: your fear of your son failing, fear of him being second-best, fear of him not getting a good job, fear of him falling behind in this crazily competitive world. Your fear is causing him great distress, anxiety, frustration and stress.
The answer is misunderstanding: your son is now a teenager and you still treat him as if he were a young boy. He is growing up faster and changing faster than you are. From the age of 12, every month that passes in your son’s life risks a growing gap between you and him. Your son is fast becoming a stranger to you. Unless you act, one day he will be a stranger.
The answer is ignorance: you still think that 21st century males, like your son, are going to live like you and your grandfather did. That is not going to happen. Your son already knows more about the 21st century than you do – he is living in it every day while you are still living in the past.
The answer is you have no idea. you think that by sending your son to the best schools, that is those schools with the best exam results, will benefit your son. Unfortunately, all that will do is pressure your son to pass exams. Around the world, not just in Vietnam, schools are obsessed with pumping information and knowledge into young males and then testing them on it. How ridiculous is that? What education should be doing is preparing these young males for thriving emotionally and mentally in the 21st century. No schools are doing that.
Yes, the truth to Suicide Nam’s tragedy was certainly failure, but not his. The failure was society’s.
No one, not you, us, or society, wants any more Suicide Nams.
So let us begin to rethink how we raise our young men because right now, we are not raising them in an emotionally healthy way. We are not engaging with them. We are not communicating with them. We are not caring for them properly. In fact, we barely understand them. We are instead dumping upon them all our fears, misunderstanding, ignorance and lack of awareness as to what they really need at this crucial stage in their lives.
And yes, a lot of this toxicity comes from parents who are themselves under enormous stress – stress from trying to keep up appearances with their peers, within the family, with their friends; stress from having to hold a family together often under very difficult financial and work circumstances; stress from within a marriage; stress from a weak ego – hoping your son will do better in life than you have.
But there is a solution. You can ask your son to attend one of the Intelligence Partnership 2023 Summer Schools, to be held in Hanoi, during June and July. Don’t worry, we call them schools because learning takes place, but this is not pressured learning, it focuses on emotional intelligence and self-love.
IP will be a bridge between you and your son. We will help develop the communication and understanding link, the trust factor, and the understanding element – IP will help your son understand himself, and also understand you, his parents. At the conclusion of the full IP programme, your son will be a little more emotionally intelligent, empathetic, content, confident and self-aware. He will love himself that bit more than he does already. He will be much less likely to become a Suicide Nam. Let IP ease your burden, reduce your stress, take away some of your fear. Let IP bring some joy and gladness into your family life.