by ALCAP | Monday, May 9, 2016
Recently, I was involved in an open discussion in Kentucky and the young lady who introduced me said, “This man probable knows more about teenage suicide than anyone in our state.” Then she looked at me and said, “Isn’t that right?” I responded by saying, “I don’t know how you measure something like that.” I became interested in this issue through the back door, or the side door.
I was in Chattanooga, Tennessee, a few years ago at the invitation of a high-school teacher who was a dear friend. As part of the school’s administration he said, “Hey, we’ve got a problem. Can you help us?” I asked, “What’s taking place?” He said, “In the last three weeks we have had two students who died from suicide.”
Now, this is a school of about 1,000 enrollment. Of course, I know nothing about any of those events. He then went on to say, “Not only were these events tragic, but in the same three-week period, we have had five attempted suicides that resulted in extended hospitalization.” I replied, “That’s terrible. You get the students together and I’ll be there.” He then interrupted, “No, you don’t understand. We don’t want you to talk to the students. We want you to talk to the faculty. We have a major crisis taking place here. Our faculty is totally demoralized. They can’t help our students because they themselves need help!” I ended up spending two days with the faculty of that high school. I commended the principal and the faculty because they united and did a terrific job in assisting their students. To my knowledge from that day until the present, there has not been another suicide attempt at that particular high school.
I came back to my office in Birmingham after working through this difficult situation and shared with my wife what had happened and she quickly pointed out, “We have the same problem here.” Parents, teachers and church youth workers are all concerned about the suicide issue facing young people in their care. We do have a problem and it is getting worse not better. So what are we going to do about it?
My orientation in life is always to do something, go forth, charge that hill, put forth an effort, and don’t just sit there in a passive motif. My back-ground, my perspective is to act. I began to call and check with leaders and agencies in our area, and their response was, “Oh, it’s just a trend. It will pass.” Another group told me, “It is a serious task, we’ll form a committee.” I said, “No, you don’t understand! These young people are dying. We must be proactive. Now is the time!” They reminded me, “This takes time, a long time. We will have to collect our statistics and data. We will have to do a survey and study.” Well you can imagine that didn’t sit well with me. I got in touch with school leaders and we started our own suicide prevention program.
What I want to do with you and your community is to challenge you to get excited. Begin to pull together with those in your geographical area. Look for your member of Congress, the Mayor, the Chief of Police and the pastors of major churches in your community and in a dynamic and synergistic effort begin to believe that great things in prevention are going to happen. They will!
Next, we will deal with the factors that foster suicide among teenagers.