Please use this blog to help us remember Joshua Lee Anderson, who made the tragic and fatal decision to take his life on Wednesday, March 18, 2009. Please post any memories or thoughts you may have in the comments.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Why So Many Suicides?

The number of teens and young adults who have taken their lives in recent weeks is both horrifying and frightening:

25 year old LPGA player
23 year old NFL player
College football player
Northern Virginia high school senior football player
Another kid from the same high school
Third kid with ties to the same high school in a span of two weeks
Four suicides at Fort Hood over 3 days
18 year old Rutgers student

And these are one who have been in the media. How many others are gone - leaving devastation and incomprehensible sorrow and grief for family and friends?

And while the possible reasons vary, the end result is the same.

Although not all are adolescents, I am reminded of a quote from a book, published in 2006 called, By Their Own Young Hand: Deliberate Self-Harm and Suicidal Ideas in Adolescents by Keith Hawton and Karen Rodham, two researchers in England. (See blog post for more thoughts on this book.)

One might regard the extent of self-harm and suicidal behavior by young people in a society as reflecting the extent to which that society cares for and cherishes its young people. Levels of self-harm and suicidal behaviors are far higher in young people in many societies than they were three or four decades ago. There has been much debate about the reason for this. One obvious but important conclusion is that the problem of self-harm and suicidal behavior among adolescents needs to be fully recognized within society. If there is adequate recognition of this problem, then this should lead to prioritization of efforts to understand more about it, to develop preventative initiatives, to ensure that adequate clinical services for adolescents are available, attractive and staffed by knowledgeable individuals, to support helplines for adolescents in need, and to address issues and threats posed by the Internet and other aspects of the media" (pg 193).

Are we a society that "cares for and cherishes its young people"?

Are we recognizing there is even a problem? That our young people are at risk from within - from themselves? That suicidal thoughts and actions are not limited to those with a history of depression, but is now a valid option for a vulnerable mind when encountering a problem that appears to be insurmountable? So in actual fact, this tragedy could happen to any family?

Can more be done to raise public awareness and provide education on mental health and well-being? Should there be greater focus and study on the pressures and issues that are unique to a generation which has grown up with the technological advances experienced in the last two decades? Are there viable and easily accessible support options available in times of distress? Can we lessen the "suicide" stigma so that those in need are not afraid to ask for help?

To the best of our knowledge, our son did not share his fatal thoughts with anyone, however fleeting or consuming they were. So for him and probably many others, the first and perhaps only line of defense resides from within.

I am not sure of everything that could or should be done. All I know is that we have joined a rapidly growing group of families, surviving this needless, senseless and preventable act, committed by our loved one.

Josh and all of these others had their whole lives ahead of them. The increasing number of suicides in this country needs to be stemmed and reversed for as we are so painfully aware, it is literally an issue of life or death.

God Bless

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