Officials in Kazakhstan are struggling to understand a wave of suicides that has horrified the country this year. One MP says “alien” western subcultures are to blame.
Galina Baimakhanova, a member of Kazakhstan's lower house of parliament, called the punk and emo movements “alien to our mentality” as she addressed parliament about adolescent issues this week. She blamed the subcultures for targeting emotionally unstable teenagers and said that punks were aggressive and emos preached “depression, withdrawal and general suicidal behavior.”
Defenders of emo – which grew out of the punk movement and is often characterized by expressive and emotive lyrics and writing – dismiss stereotypes that they are overly emotional or angst-ridden just because they sometimes wear black and can express an interest in morbid topics.
The suicide rate is high in Kazakhstan. A 2011 World Health Organization studyranked Kazakhstan third-place globally with 31.06 suicides per 100,000 people in 2008. Baimakhanova proposed setting up a nationwide project to combat the problem of teenage suicides and called for “a special ombudsman to protect the rights of children and teenagers in Kazakhstan.”
Kazakhstan was stunned earlier this year when two teenagers threw themselves off a twelve-story building in the commercial capital Almaty on May 28. Classmates said the couple had planned their double death and were members of online groups that discussed suicide.
Eight apparent copycat deaths followed across the country in June. In the case of a ninth-grade student from Almaty who jumped to her death on June 17, police found she had been posting statements about death, murder and suicide on social networks.
During one week in September four people killed themselves in the port city of Aktau by jumping from windows, Tengri News reported. In this recent spate of deaths, double suicides have become common with couples holding hands as they leap.
Back in June, Anna Kudiyarova, director of the Psychoanalysis Institute, refuted the idea that people jump off balconies merely because someone else did it. She called for increasing and improving the quality of psychological aide and suicide preventative work in schools, where bullying and pressure to perform well in academic tests are rife.