Promising young athletes. Good-hearted teens. Victims of suicide.
What happened? And what will keep other children from following suit?
In Northern Virginia, parents and school administrators are asking those questions in the wake of a steady stream of teen suicides. Plus nearly 15% of Fairfax County high school students say they have considered suicide. While the numbers here and elsewhere are stunning, they don’t capture the heartache of losing even one child.
Suicide has occupied the national stage of late, with the tragic, highly publicized suicides of several teens engaged in homosexuality. Those who support homosexual activity in teens have largely driven the discussion about teen suicide, proposing solutions that center mostly on laws and practices to help “LGBT” students feel affirmed in their behavioral choices. These programs fail miserably by not addressing the reality that it is often those behavioral choices and/or past wrongs against the child that have driven him or her into making those choices, that cause the depression in the first place.
And there is very little organized help for the average teen struggling with depression, despair, and loneliness. Suicide seduces behind closed doors, insidiously whispering “escape” in the ear of any vulnerable child.
What makes a child vulnerable?
Some parents blame the outsize pressures teens face these days—hyper-competitiveness in sports, academics, popularity, and style. Inevitably, teens fall short. And Facebook and all the rest magnify personal humiliations---sometimes beyond what seems bearable.
Other parents suggest that the severe “zero tolerance” disciplinary policies in high schools for offenses involving drugs, weapons, or physical force are a contributing factor: a student nailed by those policies feels like his or her life is all but over. One parent, whose 15-year-old son committed suicide in the wake of disciplinary proceedings for bringing a banned, but not illegal, substance to school, felt that his son’s “spirit was crushed” by the process.
At the end of the day, all of these outside factors influence a troubled child’s heart—or create turmoil in the heart of an innocent child—sometimes to deadly effect.