Although the U.S. is the wealthiest country in the world, our suicide rate is the 39th highest in the world. Last year, 35,000 adults in the U.S. committed suicide. A new report by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention found that 1 in 100 adults planned to commit suicide in the past year, a total of 2.2 million adults. Of those, young adults ages 18-29 and women were more prone to suicidal thoughts and behavior. The number of Americans contemplating suicide is alarming; for every suicide there are estimates of anywhere from 11 to 25 attempted suicides.
Suicide rates traditionally increase during recessions and decrease during economic booms. Yet even during economic downturns, Americans are better off than most people in third world countries. There is an extensive “safety net” of government programs that provides monetary assistance and food for families that encounter hard times. More than 10 percent of Americans receive food stamps. More than 50% of all babies receive some kind of government assistance. Americans may not be wealthy, but they have enough to get by comfortably.
What explains the high rate of suicides? Materialism. American culture places an increasingly high value on status and acquiring things. However, at the same time there has been a decline in teaching our children the value of hard work. Children are being taught ethnic studies in place of social studies, they are being taught revisionist history, and are generally being dumbed down and taught victimhood. They are coming out of school less prepared for the rigors of life and lack a strong work ethic.
At the same time, our youth have been led to believe they can have it all; dining out frequently, fancy cars, a big house, designer clothes, big-screen televisions, the latest expensive electronic gadgets, and multiple wireless phones. They are spoon-fed television shows of the rich and famous living well beyond the means of most Americans, but the shows portray these stars as if they are regular folks just like you and me. The Kardashians is but one of many reality TV shows featuring exorbitantly wealthy glamorous stars who young girls look up to and emulate. This sets young people up for unreasonably high expectations. When they inevitably run into financial difficulties, often brought on by illness, loss of a job, divorce or child custody legal battle, they are maxed out financially and have no money left to spare. Obligated to hefty mortgages, long- term wireless phone contracts, and other binding contracts, their dismal financial situation is compounded.
Contributing to these overly high materialistic expectations is a lack of good parenting. Parents allow the television to babysit their children for hours every day, exposing them to crude reality shows, coarse movies, and adult-themed children’s programs featuring overindulged children.
Children are no longer watching shows like Leave it to Beaver, The Brady Bunch and Mr. Rogers. The Disney Channel, one of the most popular channels for kids today, is full of shows with appalling scenes that would make any parent cringe. The theme of most shows seems to be children talking back to their parents and acting as the center of attention at all times.
Instead of teaching our children the values of discipline and hard work, they are learning hyper consumption and self-centeredness. When they grow up, they have little experience practicing kindness to others, which makes it difficult for them to succeed in romantic relationships and marriage. Generations X and Y are cycling through romantic relationships, not understanding that it is their selfishness that is the problem.
The advent of social media, particularly Facebook, has put everyone, not just the famous, under a microscope, opening up new ways for people to criticize and lash out at others. The catty and sarcastic behavior prevalent on TV is replicated in social media, as people feel free to criticize and attack others while hiding behind the safety and often anonymity of their computers. Society has degenerated into a constant stream of micro-criticism, where we criticize everyone for superficial reasons such as their appearance and offer up purely subjective emotional opinions about everything under the sun.
No one can live up to these kinds of expectations without becoming neurotic. Constant criticism wears people down and can cause depression. Even children who are raised with discipline and good values cannot escape this, because they are surrounded by peers who were raised without those values. They too have difficulty making marriage work; and cannot understand why their partners will not treat them well and lack any concept of hard work and saving. They blame themselves when things do not work out.
Parents need to quit being so lazy and teach their children the value of hard work and good moral values instead of allowing the TV to babysit them. Children are not going to learn good values and discipline in school, where God has been removed and teachers are now prohibited from having adequate authority over misbehaving children. If parents do not correct this problem, we will continue raising generations of children who are at risk of becoming despondent upon reaching adulthood and faced with the reality of what life is really like. Perhaps many of these tragic suicides could be avoided if the despondent person had been raised to lean on God when the going gets tough, instead of thinking of themselves as a failure.