Teen suicide keeps going up, especially in the Northern Virginia area. What can we do to stop this? Change our focus of success.
I don't understand. I mean, I do understand why people take their own lives. But I don't know why we let it happen over and over. Especially young people in our society, who are under tremendous pressure to perform, to be liked, to blend in -- yet stand out to be an individual -- it is tragic. Being a teenager in Northern Virginia is the most "#FirstWorldProbs" place to grow up. We may laugh at the need for a car for every 16 year old, the fact that they have more clothes than they can wear, and that they have the newest phones and computers, but the cost of all that "success" and "status" is that they are under pressure. Very real pressure. It is real. It is scary to these teens. Today we lost yet another bright student with a promising future, with everything in place to succeed, yet something inside her couldn't take it another day.
I know the statistics. Believe me, as a teacher at my high school, I have watched eight young souls lose their lives to suicide. We've struggled at home with depression linked to the high expectations placed on our students, not only academically, but physically as well. There is a standard, and if you don't fit it, you try to compensate, or you worry. Some kids can handle it, some kids don't mind being unique, but far too many kids crack under the pressure.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers today. Nationally it is the tenth leading cause of death. According to the CDC, "There were 41,149 suicides in 2013 in the United States—a rate of 12.6 per 100,000 is equal to 113 suicides each day or one every 13 minutes." Even when you take the full number of suicides per year, which includes adults and children, the national rate has nothing on our local rate. We have lost eight students in seven years. Each year we've had about 3000 students, some years more, some years less. So, out of the 21,000 student who have walked through our halls, we've lost eight. that is 1 in 2,625 instead of 1 in 100,000. That is a bit shocking. Our school in not unique, our geographic location is unique, the pressure we are putting our students under is what is unique. Every school in Northern Virginia has had its unfair share of teen suicides. Why?
What can we do for our teens? This goes back to the blog I posted on Saturday. Kids are seeking self worth and value in their school performance, their testing ability and the schools they apply for, get accepted to, and attend. We need to re-examine as parents, teachers and a culture what really is important to us. Is it success? If so, can we find a new way to measure it?
I know as a parent, I want my children to be happy. I will measure their success based on their level of contentment. What I mean by that is, if they choose a career that makes gives them joy and satisfaction, despite making little money, then that is successful. If they make a living that makes them happy, and wealthy, then awesome, but I won't measure success by income, college attended, people they know, or how they look. It is the smile on their face, the clarity in their eyes, and the people they surround themselves with that will tell me if they are happy and and thereby successful. I plan on telling my kids just that tonight.
Some resources if you feel that your child might be in danger:
The Parent Resource Program