Fri, 11 Jun 2004

12-year-old commits suicide by burning herself

Suherdjoko and Dewi Santoso, Brebes/Jakarta

Another suicide case involving a child has tragically struck a poor family in Central Java. This time, a 12-year old elementary school girl took her own life by setting herself ablaze.

Khodijah, an student at the Klampok II elementary school in Wanasari district, Brebes regency, committed suicide on Wednesday. Her body was buried on Thursday after a hospital autopsy.

Wanasari Police chief First Insp. Miswanto said Khodijah was reported to have set herself ablaze on Wednesday afternoon at her home, which by coincidence is not far from the local police station.

Neighbors tried to save the schoolgirl, who suffered burns to most parts of her body, and took her to the Bhakti Asih Hospital in Wanasari, Miswanto said.

Khodijah was still able to speak at the time, and asked for a drink of water. But she died later on Wednesday night, Miswanto recounted.

Khodijah had reportedly told those who tried to save her that she felt she was no longer loved by her mother, and that it was better that she die.

Her father, Datam, 38, admitted that his wife, Karsih, 35, had been harsh with Khodijah. The parents, who have another daughter, Sriharyati, and a son, Raisno, were shocked by Khodijah's death.

Miswanto explained that before committing suicide, Khodijah had visited her mother, who works at a shop some 500 meters away from their home. She had not gone to school that day as she was on holiday for one week as sixth year students were sitting their final exams.

After meeting with her mother, she returned home. Hours later, neighbors saw her running out of the house in flames.

Miswanto and other neighbors immediately tried to help Khodijah and took her to the hospital.

Her body was buried in the public cemetery in Klampok village.

On May 12, another elementary school student in Cilacap regency, Central Java, also committed suicide. Enggar Tri Handoko, 13, took his own life by hanging after his father had become angry with him.

Earlier this year, another elementary student also committed suicide in his home in Semarang for unclear reasons.

The most high-profile case was when 12-year-old student Heryanto attempted to kill himself at his home in Garut regency, West Java, on Aug. 22, 2003. As a result of the injuries he sustained during the attempt, he spent weeks in a coma.

Heryanto tried to take his own life by hanging himself with a plastic cable. He was reportedly distraught that his parents could not afford to pay the Rp 2,500 his teacher had requested for school equipment.

Heryanto's case caught the attention of senior government officials, including West Java Governor Danny Setiawan and Yogyakarta Governor Hamengkubuwono X, who visited him in the hospital.

On May 4, a 13-year-old boy, Agus Surayana, was in left in bad condition after attempting to kill himself at his grandmother's house in Cisarua, Lembang, near the West Java capital of Bandung.

His grandmother, Emi, said she believed her grandson had attempted suicide because she had not immediately responded to his request for Rp 5,000.

Commenting on the increasing incidence of suicide cases, child psychologist Seto Mulyadi said on Thursday that suicide cases among children were not uncommon, and had been happening since the 1970s.

"It's just that nowadays such cases have attract more people's attention as they receive a lot of media exposure," he said.

Seto said the suicides were most probably triggered by example, fantasy, and the TV shows and news children watched on television or things they read about in publications.

"Many factors, such as family, school and friends can also trigger depression," he said.

He pointed out that when parents experienced financial difficulties, they could sometimes become temperamental, which could in turn make their children depressed.

"Schools are another factor because teachers sometimes can be insensitive to students who are often burdened with a lot of homework, which puts them in a stressed situation," Seto told The Jakarta Post.