A small town school district near Dallas has recently had four youths take their own lives. White, average looking youngsters, who at a distance an observer would never have guessed what had been going through their minds to bring them to this desperate ending.
When I was a youth some 60 years ago I never recall any school mates taking their own life. This is a phenomenon that seems to be increasing exponentially, and seems to reflect on the state of our culture at large.
The two primary at-risk groups are Black and LGBTQ youth. I think “why” is self-evident to anyone who is caring and understanding: Black youth today faced with drugs, poverty, often inner-city conditions where gangs rule, or living in the suburbs competing with kids from often wealthier families, feeling unsafe just to leave their homes, never knowing when a cop might shoot them, and I think very likely getting less attention from adults and family since Black people all have so many challenges to deal with today, often feel that their is no hope for their future. LGBTQ youth also are so grievously mistreated by the majority of other youth, adults and our backward social values. They see transgender people murdered each week. Being different can be both a blessing and a curse. Until we as a society can eradicate the hate permeating our institutions and politics, and infuse a greater sense of human rights feeling and practice at large, it is unlikely this situation will change for the better.
In my mind the ultimate solution to turning around youth suicide is simply love. But love in all its forms, of reaching out, being friendly, being protective, advocating, and of course asking the right questions and listening to the responses. This has to engage the whole “village,” parents and fellow students, and most of all family and extended family.
One on one conversations need to be more attuned to picking up on latent feelings indicating depression, and all of us need to be more observant to changes in behavior of our youth. Parents need to be more involved with their children as partners and friends, not just as authority figures.
To me the best programs would seem to be right within the students bodies of schools, kids looking out for kids. Encourage your children and grandchildren and others you know to step up and reach out to kids who eat alone at lunchtime, or don’t socialize or play. Kids can be great doctors to other kids. One on one kindness can save a life.
Here are some links I have found: