We need empathy as much as we need suicide awareness

According to the Jason Foundation, suicide is the second leading cause of death for ages 10-24. More teenagers and young adults die from suicide than from cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease combined. Let’s see some statistics to get a perspective.

Each day in the United States, there is an average of over 5,400 attempts by young people in grades 7-12. Our school is no exception. We have suffered losses in previous years, and it seems that administration does not take concrete, preventive measures to combat suicides.

While I am appreciative of being in a privileged, middle-class majority high school with over 3,000 kids in the heart of Silicon Valley, I can’t help but feel like sometimes it’s a jungle – a jungle where every man and woman is for themselves. I see the toll it takes on the physical and mental well-being of students.

Some will stay up until 3 AM to finish the last of their AP homework. Some simply give up and allow the pain of regret to sink to their bones. The result is feeling sleepy in class – maybe even falling asleep. No interest to learn, just as long as the grade gives validation.

A lot of the things we do are for self-benefit; “how will this increase my chances of going to the perfect college?” we ask ourselves frequently. We ask this before committing to a community service opportunity. We ask this before joining a club. We ask this before doing things that should just be done simply for the action itself.

We would turn our heads away to a person in need if it meant it would get in the way of our study time for tomorrows test. We decide not to talk about suicide or racial inequality or anything else that matters over the dinner table or in the classroom because it makes us uncomfortable.

No study can truly determine how many teens feel suicidal; many seldom know it themselves. A different approach is needed -– one that isn’t simply an institution that puts the subject in a room with a stranger. I’m talking about an approach that brings back the good-neighbor mentality – looking out for each other without seeing a reward at the end.

Our society is putting too much value on doing good deeds for self-benefit. As a result, many pained individuals are neglected from the treatment they need, simply because that treatment offers no reward, and no recognition. Suicide prevention doesn’t need to be under the umbrella of an institution, or in a counselor’s office. It can be in the self; the desire to ask a peer how they are feeling or noticing unusual behavior, simply for the act of doing it.

It really is time to stop depending on the professionals to do a service we can all have within ourselves. This illusion that we are not capable of saving another human being’s life unless there is a reward at the end, needs to end. Only then can we make a significant impact in suicide culture.

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