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Culture

Youth Suicide: Cause and Effect

As the suicide rate rises among young people, it's critical that we determine why.

Robin Smith · Oct. 21, 2019

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released data this past week that youth suicide rates increased 56% from 2007 to 2017 among 10- to 24-year-olds. Sally Curtin, the author of the report and a statistician at the CDC, noted, “When a leading cause of death our youth is increasing, it behooves us all to pay attention and figure out what’s going on.”

The Wall Street Journal’s analysis of this report includes the statement that researchers aren’t certain of the cause, yet factors such as a “rise in depression, drug use, stress and access to firearms” along with the influence of social media are cited as areas of interest and study.

“Access to firearms” is not all that different from 50 years ago, but let’s take an honest look at the cultural forces and influences on our youth and young adults today that may offer some real causation, not just correlation.

Throughout research, suicide and mental health crises are recorded as worse among this age group during the school year. Is that because of peer pressure, stress dealing with academics and achievement, bullying, access to other individuals who may have access to drugs and psychoactive substances? Likely, it’s a combination of some of these factors and a few others that may be dismissed.

What do our kids do when they first rise each day? They grab their smartphones and check their social-media accounts to see how many “likes” may have been noted on a recent post or see what their “friends” are saying and doing. This virtual world of “friends” has replaced authentic communication, compassion, and reality itself.

Today’s kids are losing their ability to write grammatically correct complete sentences and often misspell words due to the abbreviations, emojis and cyber-slang of their digital networks. Sadly, advanced technology is permitting laziness of our minds, learning, and accomplishments and we’re regressing in our behavior. Kids need the benefit of the human interaction that allows expression, permits individuality while engaging in team-building and problem-solving and even demands conflict resolution.

Our kids and young adults must learn to deal with real life — not some Internet community of imagined perfection and notoriety based on a façade of posed images and a fake construct. But we’ve lost a generation (or more) to an online existence that’s captured their minds and is stunting their growth.

Then, once our kids are out the door, they’re headed to middle school, high school, or some type of instruction in a two-year college or four-year university. And what do our kids encounter in their day at these “institutions of higher learning”?

Of late, the message has been that the Earth will cease to exist in less than 12 years because of climate change. Our kids are told that it’s their right to determine their own gender rather than live within the capacity of their biological being while maximizing their gifts and talents. Too many students hear that life is a wad of cells until a baby is outside the mother’s womb and wanted by both the biological donors — formerly called the mother and father. Students of all ages hear that part of growing up is being sexually active, having access to abortion as a type of birth control and part of a female’s health care, and that choosing a life of discipline, maturity, and restraint is not possible — much less a characteristic of an individual living at the fullest extent of their “rights.”

Even among adults, studies have shown “deaths of despair” — from suicide, drugs and drug-related chronic diseases — have risen across socio-economic and educational strata. So what’s causing all of this despair?

Life does come with challenges. Life is not fair. But life also comes with hope and opportunity. That said, parents are failing to be the first teachers in the lives of their children to inspire, offer hope, and equip for their future. Our institutions entrusted with the high trust of academic instruction are populated with activists who are invested in more than educational excellence and accomplishment and are now turning to the playbook seen in failing cultures of sameness for the common good and a posture of dependency rather than self-reliance.

Don’t believe this? With the demands for “free” college tuition, free health care, a universal wage for those who don’t even work and for the express doctrine of this sameness to guarantee no individual excels above another, the role of government metastasizes to a cancer that consumes its host to pay for those who don’t excel and aren’t driven to self-reliance. Shorter, we’re teaching kids to be wards of the State.

Just this last week, the Economist published a story about more Chinese families choosing to homeschool their children, which makes “Chinese officials wary.” And, why, you might ask? It’s because their schools are “builders of socialism” just as we’re seeing our own version of indoctrination at the hands of activists in our kids’ classrooms.

But surely kids grow out of this, right? They find themselves and become productive, you say?

In the Oct. 7 edition of the Harvard Business Review, a study was referenced to understand why over 200 million workdays were lost to mental-health conditions at a cost of $16.8 billion in employee productivity. Within the research published by Mind Share Partners, SAP and Qualtrics, a stunning fact emerged that should stop us in our tracks: About “half of Millennials and 75% of Gen Zers have quit their jobs for mental health reasons.” We have a bumper crop of frail individuals who can’t live life because of what they’ve been taught, what they now believe and how they respond to reality, in the workplace and in life at large.

Youth suicide, along with this mental-health crisis, is a manifestation that is one of many fruits of a failure to equip and inspire our children, first in our homes, then in our communities, and finally in our critical institutions meant to prepare academically.

It’s critical to stop those who sow the seeds of indoctrination of fear, self-loathing, and dependency. Inspiration, not indoctrination!

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