Children Without Hope: The Cause Of and Cure For Suicides Among Young People

Suicides in our society are on the rise. Even the U.S. Military is concerned because they have seen suicide rates in their ranks skyrocket over the past few decades. Especially tragic is the ever-increasing number of suicides among adolescents and teens. Scarcely a week goes by that I do not hear about a child or teen taking their own life or making an attempt to do so.

The primary causes of suicide will always be debatable. You really can't look into the mind of some other person to find out why they decided to end their life and their reason for doing so might be very personal. Experts tell us that some of the off the shelf causes for suicide can be mental illness, stress, drug and alcohol abuse, bullying or just feeling left out and alone. However, I think it really all comes down to having a sense of hopelessness. This is especially true among young people because they lack the maturity or life skills to cope with those kinds of feelings for very long.

Whether we like it or not, society has to take some responsibility for the high rate of suicide among young people. It is any wonder that children feel a sense of hopelessness when all they see is a constant flow of negative reports and dire economic, social and environmental predictions in the news, and prophet of doom style commentaries from political pundits, on all types of media? The old saying "garbage in, garbage out" certain applies to this situation.

The one place that should be a safe haven for young people often becomes the instrument of torture that leads them to desperate acts. Schools have become a micro-chasm of all of society's ills. Kids experience harassment, bullying and can become social outcasts within their own peer group just because of the way they look, speak or the clothes they wear. Then there is the hyper-negativism: Students are constantly taught about and reminded of our planet's environmental and social ills by lesson plans that seem more interested in soothing the consciences of adults, than teaching the basics to children.

Young people have enough to deal with when it comes to just growing up. We do not need to constantly flood their minds with issues that will likely never be solved. Parents can help counteract what happens in school by being vigilant at home. This begins with monitoring what their kids watch, who they listen to and what is being said about them on social media web-sites and their own cell phones. It's a lot of work, but I am sure that parents who have already lost children to hopelessness would gladly go back and do all these things if they had a second chance.

Parents also need to be sure that their kids are being exposed to positive role models and activities that promote physical and mental wellness. Part of this process means always keeping the lines of communication open between parents and their children. If you know what your child likes, you can find and suggest activities for him or her that will maintain their interest and inspire them. You can also avoid getting them involved with activities they don't really care about, avoiding the risk of further alienating them from you.

Adolescents and teens love to dig deep down inside themselves for introspection, socialize with their own peer group (for the most part) and avoid communication with their parents at all costs. Parents have to find ways to break down those walls. One way is to not build any additional ones. Make time for your kids when they do want to talk. Give them your full attention (turn off the TV, radio, computer, etc.). Look for opportunities to socialize with them apart from the role of parenting. This doesn't mean being a friend instead of being a parent. It just means that there are times when you should create opportunities for communication by sharing an activity (movies, TV shows, sporting events, live theater, whatever!) you both have interest in. This opens the door for honest discussion and conversational exchanges.

I have always supported the learning process and the underpaid educators involved with it. However, I believe that many schools have simply become failure farms, despite the efforts of sincere educators to keep that from happening. Part of the problem is that political correctness has replaced the basics when it comes to learning. Children do not need to constantly be reminded about all the social ills out there. They get enough of that through just about every media source available, twenty-four/seven. Educators must re-evaluate their lesson plans and begin to replace the negative with the positive.

Another weapon in the fight against adolescent and teen suicide is teaching, legislating and practicing Peer Responsibility. If a young person decides to make someone else the target of insults or bully them because they think it's funny or have problems of their own, they need to know that there will be consequences. These consequences should come before things get so bad that the person being insulted or bullied decides to end their life. Schools must adopt a zero tolerance policy when it comes to harassing and bullying and really enforce it. Students must be made aware that these practices will not be tolerated and those that fail to report them will be subject to the same punishment as those who carry out these harmful activities.

Now I'm sure that I will not make any friends with this next suggestion to help stop suicides among young people: I believe it's time for schools, institutions and businesses involved with the education or treatment of young people to extend the welcome mat to the diety that made all life possible in the first place. I'm talking about God. You can call him a "higher power" or "the man upstairs" or "the power in charge" if you like. That's how some in twelve step programs refer to him and that's fine for them and society as a whole. I call him God and believe it's time to show him the respect he deserves. If we respect and trust in the one who made us, we'll have the faith to confront and over-come our problems. We'll also respect ourselves enough to avoid sur-coming to life's struggles by committing suicide.

God has not been welcome in schools for a long time. Even when he was, most 'modern' educators re-framed from teaching much, if anything, about him unless it was historically, socially or scientifically relevant. Well folks, times they are a-changing again. It's time to let young people know that there is a higher power out there and that he cares about them. I'm not saying that we should force God down anyone's throat. I am saying that schools should allow groups of students to meet, pray and study whatever holy book they lean towards at least once during the school day if they care to. Teachers that believe in God should be able to allow students to decide if they want to opt in to classes about God, religions or religious beliefs.

There is no guarantee that such changes in the public school system would prevent or stop all suicides. There is, however, a chance that instilling the kind of moral and ethical values that most religions teach would help to close the flood gates of harassing, bullying and suicides that now seem wide open. Most suicides among young people occur in public (non-religious) schools, not in schools where the concept of God and/or religion is welcome and taught openly. As a Christian, I wake up each day and am filled with hope despite all that happens in the world around me. Imagine if most kids could feel the same way.

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