This was one citizen's reaction to the recent death of yet another teenager in a small Welsh town. She was found hanging in her bedroom.
I don't think that the kids in this story are killing themselves because they belong to some kind of internet suicide club. I think it is just that self-destruction is the natural result of self-obsession. The paradox of modern times is that we possess the means to interact with others to an unprecedented degree, we posses the means to continually nourish a curiosity about the world we live in, and yet we avail ourselves as little as possible of these resources… We are turned in towards ourselves. The initiative that would connect us to our world, launching us into pursuing conversations, careers, families, is increasingly missing in people’s lives. The young, usually so curious about their world, are today the most jaded; the young, usually the most optimistic about the future, are today the most cynical. Is there something that they are learning, or is there something that they are not being taught, that is causing this change?
Her death last Thursday was the latest in at least seven apparent copycat suicides in Bridgend, South Wales, that have alarmed parents, health authorities and police, who believe that they may be prompted by messages on social networking websites such as Bebo.
In the 12 months before Tasha’s death, six young men from Bridgend and the surrounding area had killed themselves. Most were known to each other. This month Tasha attended the funeral of 20-year-old Liam Clarke, who was found hanged in a local park the day after Boxing Day.
Copycat suicides are a well-known phenomenon but in Bridgend the tributes left on websites such as Bebo appear to have had a significant impact. Friends have set up memorial pages where wellwishers have posted messages or bought virtual “tablets” in a remembrance wall. The 19 tablets on Tasha’s memorial page include the messages “RIP chick”, “Sleep Tight Princess” and “Sweet dreams, Angel”.
One officer [of the South Wales Police] said: “They may think it’s cool to have a memorial website. It may even be a way of achieving prestige among their peer group.”
South Wales already had one of the worst suicide rates for young people. Tasha, who called herself “Wildchild”, was not the only one to spend hours each day on the internet in a world about which their parents knew little.
Melanie Davies’s son, Thomas, was the third young person from the area to kill himself last year. Mrs Davies, 38, said: “One of his friends told me that they feel these kids seem to be copying each other . . . so many of them are hanging themselves.”
Why are they disconnecting themselves from each other, and from us?
The teenage years are always so filled with disillusionment, as old visions fall to make room for new revelations. If a life is too turned in towards itself, how does it survive the continual humiliations that the trials of life place upon it? The lifelines of a parent’s love, a sibling’s support, and a shared belief system focused on the long-term rather than the short-term… these used to be commonly available resources, yet now seem as scarce as the depleted natural resources in mining towns like Bridgend.
Seneca once said, “To Wish To Be Cured Is Part Of The Cure”… reading the comments section accompanying this story in the UK press, I get the sense that the United Kingdom my family came from has been replaced by one depleted of its most treasured resource: a belief system that allows them to connect and interact with others. North Americans are posting comments like these:
Praying for their families. This is so sad and tragic.
Pam, Sheridan, Wyoming
My heart is broken for the families and friends of these sad and misguided young people. That they can't see they have been born into the best of times compared to their ancestors is so sad. They have all the chances that millions want and they end it for who knows what reasons. Yes, the world looks bleak, yes it is hard but we could go back and find it a thousand times harder in the past. God Bless the families in their anguish.
Patricia Anne, Cannington, Canada
…And this is the typical response these sentiments are met with:
I believe you 'Jesus' loving 'North Americans' would be better off spreading the word in places like Clark County, or Las Vegas, than in South Wales.
Fr Tim, Blackpool, Lancashire
Thank you, American Jesus devotees, for making me laugh. ...
I fail to see how faith in the man on the cross can help anyone. sending people to worship a fake god is more likely to send them over the edge if you ask me!
Karen , Northampton, Northamptonshire
The modern-day UK... a Kingdom United by... what, exactly?
[For another, even more harrowing teen suicide story, read about this case in France last year.]