In this next section I want to look at the issues facing teenagers today as they head off to university. I want to understand the pressures they face, where those pressures come from and what the consequences can be. I hope to find a way to empathise with the stresses they are under and allow this to influence my images.
Information from the Office of National Statistics tells us that between 2007 and 2011 that suicide amongst males in higher education increased by 36% whilst those amongst females doubled. (The Guardian, Groves, N. 2012)
The path from childhood to adulthood is already a tumultuous emotional time and if this physical and mental metamorphosis is not enough, to find yourself under increasing pressures from parents, peers and society at large is enough to push you beyond your tolerance levels.
The university adventure is an exciting and thrilling journey and for most people it leaves them with long-lasting happy memories but increasingly life for others is not so joyous and for some it all becomes too much.
Leaving home for the first time, going to a strange place, not knowing anyone and your social and support network of friends and family are along way away. Add into that the increasing academic schedule, the importance of achievement, a lack of funds, decreasing job prospects, huge educational cost increases leading to what can feel like a lifetime of debt and its easy to see how depression and suicide are on the increase.
21-year-old Sarah Napuk sat alone in her room at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford. Whilst going over the new work schedule set by the university the stresses become too much to bear. Despite being a top-level student with a fantastic future ahead her mental health deteriorates and she slips into an acute depression. Her body is found the next day by her fiance, unable to bear the pressures any longer Sarah took the only route she felt open to her and committed suicide. (The Independent, Sengupta, K. 1997)
18-year-old Rajkumar Mukhil was found dead in his room at the Meenakshi medical college. He had taken his own life when he found he could no longer cope with the pressures of student life. The blame is being put on a form of institutionalised bullying known as ‘ragging’ and although the university denies this the outcome is the same. (Times of India 2013)
Shivam Singh 19, took his own life whilst in his room near to where he was study Engineering. When the police broke down his door they found that he had hanged himself, written on the wall was a message to the college director who Shivam alleged had been harassing him. (NDTV 2013)
What appears to be a common theme amongst student suicides is that they happen when the students are alone in their rooms. It is at this time when we have returned from the hustle and bustle of a busy campus and get time alone to spend with our thoughts and reflect upon our lives that the feelings of overwhelmingness creep into the psyche. It was this moment that I wanted to capture, that point when we slip into hopelessness and despair, when the emotions consume us and we reach that point when we come to the realisation that our only escape is to end our life.