I think my community needs an intervention and a commitment to a "overachievers" recovery program - that may require more than 12 steps! A second teenager has killed herself this month and I am extremely concerned that our local culture is setting the "success' bar so high that teens are not feeling "good enough," no matter how successful they are.
We are reacting, do not get me wrong. We have had two community forums, and there will be more, the schools are talking about it, teachers and parents are concerned, and both of the largest local health care providers are providing emotional health screening and counselors to any child or teen upset by the recent suicides, regardless of insurance.
We are grieving, and we are doing what we can, but I think what we need is a proactive strategy that involves everyone associated with our "disorder" - colleges, schools, parents, coaches, churches, teens, and health care providers. We all have to decide that what we are currently striving for - with all the best intentions - is not emotionally or physically healthy for our children and the rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide are making this reality crystal clear!
I think it is time for a culture change and some sort of community guideline about what a healthy childhood looks like - and feels like - for a normal or a fragile child. This plan would include guidelines for what an acceptable number of activities is, how many hours a day a child or teen needs to sleep, how many hours a day of homework is actually helpful, how much time spent on music, arts, community service or sports each week is reasonable, and how many HOURS a day a teen needs to spend with adults that know, love and support him or her.
Once the guidelines are in place, then we need to educate parents, teachers, doctors, churches, coaches, colleges, and everyone else we can think of - on how we are going to raise our children - and how we are going to give them the emotional resilience (also known as developmental assets) they need, the loving and attentive adults to mentor them, and the goals that are in line with our values.
Maybe we need to draft a letter from our community to the top colleges saying we are sorry but none of our children will be applying to the top 50 schools in the United States next year - we consider the expectations that children get 4.5 GPAs and 2400s on their SATs to be abusive! We have had enough and are going to put the health and well-being of our children in front of any current measure of success! We are not quite sure what our new generation of healthy teens will look like, but we are sure they will be safe!
We are also going to need to focus on the youth in our community who are fragile - for any biological or contextual circumstance. It cannot be that these teens who chose to take their own lives are the perfectly healthy, successful, well-loved, artistic, smart, beautiful, athletic, etc..... because if there are no warning signs, we are all at risk of having the teens we love take their own lives without warning - and that reality is one I will not live with!
Be loud! Be heard! Our youth are worth protecting!