It happened again. Three teens took their own lives here in Colorado last week. Two of the boys were students at the middle school and high school that my husband attended. Like all local parents, I watched the all too familiar footage of teens gathered to mourn and tears sprang hot in my eyes as I wondered what in the world is going on.
I poured over social media posts by my grief stricken friends whose children were classmates of the boys who are now gone. I read the local news with quotes of school administrators and explanations of myriad counselors. Of course many offered the perspective that social media plays a key role—a source of bullying, suicidal ideation, and a place for like-minded kids to gather and feed off of one another’s despair.
And then I read the tweet of a classmate of one of the high schoolers. She said, “Do you see us yet? No more ‘We have a counselor for you (along with a couple hundred other students)’ or ‘Call if you need anything’ crap. Wake up. Do something different. Change the culture. Let’s get real.” I’m with her. When 50 or 60 or 70 kids kill themselves every year (eight already this school year in Colorado), it’s time to change the culture.
Here’s what the problem is, in the words of C.S. Lewis, “Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay.” We teach our kids to look only for themselves from the day they are born. We tell them, there is no God, no greater story than their own lives. Because they are the result of chance and primordial ooze, they are not responsible to anyone or anything. No, they should choose their own identities, choose their own values, make their own way. Everything from popular parenting advice to preschool education to high school indoctrination says to our kids, “Determine your own destiny. You are enough.”
These words, this way of life, is untethered and dangerous—deadly, even. No one can bear that weight. Asking a child to conjure up her own meaning of life, her own purpose, her own morality, and to forge her own way in making it all happen is to create a recipe for failure and depression. As finite humans, we simply are not enough.