A couple of friends recently posted articles on social media that expressed concern for what appears to be a growing mental health crisis among our youth, and the growing suicide rate among young people, in particular. As I read these articles and reflected on the anguish and agony expressed in each of them, I thought back to why I started this blog last January, after the suicide of a student I taught four years ago. In the initial blog post, I included details of his last weekend, and how his death had prompted me to begin writing to encourage friends, students, family, whoever might need a reminder that although life can be hard, disappointing, even crushing, there are reasons to hang in there.
And then I began to really examine why children, especially, might not be able to believe that life is worth living, and I arrived at these conclusions:
We tell them, constantly, that they are parasites, destroying the planet.
We tell them boys might actually be girls trapped in the wrong body.
We tell girls they have to compete physically with boys who think they might be girls.
We neither talk to nor listen to them, but shove technology in their hands.
We medicate them rather than teach them life has hard and ugly parts, and that they have strength and ability to get through it, and oftentimes, most times, things get better after the hard and ugly parts.
We try to be happy, happy, happy, rather than acknowledge the sad parts of life, and we act as though it is a bad thing to be sad.
We tell girls and women they can kill their children if it’s not a good time for them.
We say unborn children are not even human until after they are born, and then, in some places, they can still be put to death by the doctor who attended their unfortunate birth.
We tell them the greatest country in the world, that has provided more opportunity and freedom for more people than any other country in history, is actually the worst country in the world.
We tell them women don’t need men.
We tell men they are toxic.
We allow them to learn about sex from porn on the internet and call it love.
We tell them it’s important to be honest and then make them lie – “Tell her you’re only 11,” “Tell him I’m not home.”
We say follow the rules, and then we speed, text while driving, roll through stop signs.
We say respect authority, and then we curse cops, make jokes and repeat gossip about politicians. And teachers. And preachers.
We teach vocabulary in school and then change the meanings of words like marriage, racism, family, Socialism.
We give lip service to being considerate and thoughtful, and then we talk out loud through PTA programs, church services, all solemn occasions.
We don’t want to allow them to make mistakes to learn from, nor do we provide and insist on consequences when they do.
We throw out a safety net every time they stumble and so they are crippled to the point that they don’t learn how to pick themselves up and go again. And again. And again.
We have a pill or a procedure for every inconvenience brought about by being human.
We give the impression that some lives are worth living and some are not, based on physical, genetic, social and cultural characteristics, rather than simply honoring all human life.
And my favorite – we talk about getting old as if it is a horror to be avoided rather than being grateful we have the chance to see what we look like silvered and wrinkled, to see our children grown, and perhaps to even spoil our grandchildren.
No wonder our youth are looking for a way out.
Maybe this year we might consider resolving to tell our young people the truth, if we can even remember what that is. If we’re willing to admit there is such a thing.
There is a difference between right and wrong, and there are real reasons to choose right. There are real differences between men and women, and the survival of the whole species depends on us working with each other and respecting and honoring each other, bringing our own unique and individual gifts to the human race. That goes for male and female, as well as for young and old.
Maybe, just maybe, we can put down the technology for awhile and practice eye contact and intonation and facial expression and listening instead of waiting to speak or interrupting.
It’s time to turn our faces from the lit screen to The Light, to recognize that Peace is the gift of a clear conscience, to embrace Hope as a good enough reason to keep living, and to seek and spread Joy wherever it may be found, and share it, even if through pain and tears and suffering, and that is life.
Happy New Year friends.