Privately owned Kazakhstan daily Express-K has reported on a tragic and all too common case of teenage suicide in the northern industrial city of Temirtau.
On the landing of a high-rise apartment block, neighbors discovered the hanging body of a 15-year old schoolboy. Police say they found fresh slash marks on the child’s wrists, suggesting he had tried to commit suicide by other means.
As the newspaper notes, this was the second case of adolescent suicide in the city this year, and police have also recorded another six unsuccessful suicide attempts among young people.
Another piece titled “Death is Growing Younger” cites Deputy Education Minister Makhmetgali Sarybekov as saying authorities had registered 340 suicide attempts so far this year among the nation’s youth. Of the 211 children that died, a dozen were below the age of 12, Sarybekov said.
The explanations offered by Sarybekov range from poor family and social settings to school bullying.
A Kazakhstan General Newswire report (unavailable online) from April this year reports that 202 teenagers committed suicide in 2009 and offers a slightly more nuanced and critical explanation. As senior General Prosecutor’s office expert Andrei Kravchenko points out, suicide accounts for 45 percent of the juvenile mortality rate: "If we take into account 170 failed suicide attempts, it becomes clear that the life of a Kazakh teenager is far from blissful, opposite to what we like to imagine."
Kravchenko adds that many of the teenagers committing suicide were previously victims of crime: "The victims and their parents in most cases refrain from seeking help of special support groups or police."
The Temirtau case has perplexed experts, however. The city’s senior child affairs inspector Diana Shiryayeva maintains there was no evidence the child had any inclinations to suicide: “He was irritable and not always in control of his emotions: he snapped with teachers and struck out at his peers, which happens with many children of that age. But the boy would not have committed suicide; more likely he wanted to give people a fright or attract attention to himself.”
Without full knowledge of the case and proper expertise, it is clearly impossible to know how much reliability to attribute to that assessment. Statistics do appear to show, however, that suicide has become a devastating scourge for Kazakhstan in recent years. World Health Organization data show the country as having the fourth-highest number of suicides in the world per capita, a statistic that cannot be easily explained away.