When a student at New York University committed suicide recently, it was the 6th suicide at that same institution this year. The suicide of someone in the prime of life, and getting an education that promises a bright future, should be much rarer than it is. But NYU is not unique by any means.
Back when I taught at UCLA, one morning on my way to my office I saw an attractive and well-dressed young woman lying quietly in the bushes next to the building, apparently asleep. But the presence of police nearby alerted me to the fact that something was wrong. She had jumped from the roof of the building to her death.
When I taught at Cornell, it averaged a suicide a year.
Selecting a college for a young man or young woman to attend is more than a matter of looking up the rankings and seeing where the chances of admission look good. How the atmosphere of the college matches the personality of the individual can mean far more than anything in the college catalogue or the pretty brochures.
Some young people are not yet ready for coed living arrangements and the pressures and dangers that can lead to. Some are at risk on a campus with widespread drug usage. Some students can get very lonely when they just don't fit in.
Sometimes there is no one to turn to and sometimes the adults they turn to on campus have nothing but psychobabble to offer.
Late adolescence and early adulthood are among the most dangerous times in people's lives, when one foolish decision can destroy everything for which parents and children have invested time and efforts and hopes for years.
Too many know-it-alls in the high schools and colleges urge or warn parents to get out of the picture and let the child decide where to go and what to do. A high school counselor once told me that I would be "kept informed" of the decisions that she and my daughter were making as to which colleges to apply to.
Apparently there are enough sheep-like parents these days to let "experts" take control of their children at a critical juncture in their lives. But these "experts" suffer no consequences if their bright ideas lead some young person into disaster. It is the parents who will be left to pick up the pieces.
Too often parents are pushed to the sideline in the name of the child's need for freedom and autonomy. But what is presented to parents as a need to set their children free as young adults is too often in fact abandoning those children to the control of others. The stakes are too high to let that happen.