New City, Philippines
The rising number of teen and youth suicides is a sign that something is deeply wrong in our society. It seems that the adults have “fallen asleep at the wheel,” having lost the courage to affirm and bear witness to the young that life is so much more than immediate gratification, success, power, money, social status…
“You’ve just turned 18. You have decided to end your life. Your decision was final. In the last instance of your life, you decided to set down in black and white the reason for what you are about to do. As in a self-portrait, you describe how disgusted you feel about yourself. Your thoughts will show the decisive events in your life, the origin of your feelings at this very moment.” These were instructions for an assignment a teacher gave his 13-14 year-old students. He later lost his teaching position as their parents protested to the school administrator for his having assigned this theme to minors.
When I read about this teacher, I was also disconcerted and worried. I can’t imagine how a teacher can give such a theme to adolescents who are still developing emotionally, who are filled with conflicting sentiments and see-sawing emotions. What I see even more disturbing is that the teacher didn’t give an explanation to these teenagers of why he chose this theme, or took the time to guide them through the complex issues surrounding such an important life-changing topic.
It is good that the parents of these children protested actively, although the teacher’s losing his job may seem a bit too harsh a punishment.
Perhaps, there are many reasons for this situation. Yet one thing should be clear, teenagers are still growing psychologically and emotionally and any conditioning can provoke unmotivated and unfortunate consequences.
Introducing teens to a delicate topic like suicide without any proper preparation, discussion or dialogue about it, probably obliging them to reflect on their negative sentiments, and making them to look at life as a result of negative episodes or happenings as such, all this is not only very risky, but above all, unjust and false.
Sure, we all have positive and negative moments, and depending on our state of mind, we can interpret the same event in different ways. One has to consider the state of mind of the person committing suicide and generally, there would be some signs of psychological disturbance, with varying degrees of severity. The causes of psychological imbalance are varied, but principally they are hereditary.
Emotionally weak people with a strong tendency towards depression, if not controlled, may end up in extreme desperation, and for a person already psychologically disturbed, this could well be a motive to end his life.
It is very important therefore, to encourage our young people to live a balanced and harmonious life. Also, educators and adults should prepare growing young people to be strong and independent enough to be able to tackle the challenges of life. It is important to accompany them in their experiences of growth and development, inculcating values fundamental to the choices they will be making in every situation. It is best to encourage healthy social interaction, to widen social circles and activities.
Today, the rising number of teen and youth suicides is a sign that something is deeply wrong in our society.
It seems that the adults have “fallen asleep at the wheel,” having lost the courage to affirm and bear witness to the young that life is so much more than immediate gratification, success, power, money, social status… and that there is Someone – the author of Life – who is looking out for them, who “has their backs covered,” so to speak, and who loves them unconditionally. A values-centred education is slowly dying out in our educational system, and maybe even in our families,.
How many times we parents, teachers, and educators forget our roles to encourage and guide our young people! I am sure that with our renewed commitment, the splendour of truth will shine forth again, and this needs a lot of courage and self-denial on our part.
It also requires much witnessing to the hope that we are called to.
Ezio Aceti with Ting Nolasco and Frances Orian