Last week, Brookhaven Town lost a fifth grader to suicide. A young lady, not even a teenager yet, found herself in a place where taking her own life seemed to be the best future for herself. While we know nothing about the circumstances surrounding her untimely passing, and her family has asked for the utmost privacy in their time of tremendous mourning, it’s eternally beneficial to dive into why young people are increasingly taking this route. What is making our children anxious, depressed, and in some cases contemplate or fully attempt suicide?

The suicide rates amongst our adolescents and teenagers are astounding. Yet, there are many different factors, both societal and personal, that are behind these rates. The United States falls almost directly in the middle of suicide rates by country worldwide. We aren’t at the top of the list, but not at the bottom either. Youth suicide rates have risen as much as 62% from 2007 to today. We have approximately two million children and teenagers in the United States make at least one suicide attempt each year.

Statistics show that living in poverty does have an effect on the number of people attempting to take their life. A Boston University research team learned that the rate of suicides in children and adolescents is 37% higher in counties with the highest levels of poverty. Unemployment, economic disadvantages, and worrying about basic needs have a profound impact on the growing, developing brain of a young person. That would plainly tell us that a child’s circumstances undoubtedly have an effect on how valuable they feel their life is.

Social media use along with bullying is also are affecting our youth at alarming rates. The majority of children who are experiencing suicidal thoughts or tendencies are experiencing bullying at school that is following them home on their phone or smart device. In my own childhood and experience, there was bullying of course, but the bullying seemed to stay at the recess yard or lunchroom while we hoped it would dissipate by the following day. Many times, it did. In 2024, children can be bullied online all day long. They can wake up and go to sleep bombarded by pictures and comments about themselves. There are even photoshop options that can put the young person in places, with other people or even naked when they truly aren’t.

Furthermore, everything we do and say as adults around our children matters. There has been a major ripple effect from the top right to the very bottom. The way we treat and speak about other humans, our children ultimately will end up mimicking. National figures have made it a common practice to label, degrade, and dehumanize people that are different or disagree with us. This speech is blasting into our living rooms and into the corridors of our hearts. We discuss or repeat what they say, our children are taking it all in as children do. The cycle continues, the statistics rise, and we have our neighbors’ children, and possibly our own, who hate themselves, want to die, and maybe are willing to prematurely try to.

I pray for her parents and loved ones who have a really long journey of grief ahead of them. I pray for children that are being bullied to a breaking point even as you read this article. I pray that common decency, compassion, and the willingness to get to know others as humans before giving them a label returns. I pray that people who are exhausted by life and how hard it can be at times find a renewed sense of hope today. I pray that those who have lost the will to live may have that flame rekindled in their hearts. I pray that our families, communities, and nation will heal and return to the ancient paths that we once knew and stood on. I pray for you.

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