Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why Are So Many Welsh Teens Killing Themselves?

"She was a lovely girl from a lovely family," said Michael Tapner, a 57-year-old family friend and retired coal miner. "I blame the environment. There is nothing for the kids to do, no place to go, nothing."
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.

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.”

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?

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. ...

Howard, Manchester

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.]


truepeers said...

I remember seeing a tv program some years ago about the case of a woman who repeatedly - four or five? times - killed her infant children.

She and her family had been examined by all kinds of investigators, including a doctor convinced he had discovered some new kind of malady or crib death phenomenon, I can't remember which, for which he became famous in the medical literature.

Finally, someone somehow saw through all the deceptions and the woman admitted here crimes. It turns out she was primarily motivated by all the love and attention that came to mothers who had lost a child. She was so empty, spiritually, she had no other relationship to the sacred and communal to rely upon.

Britain will discover the more primitive forms of sacrificial violence if it cannot hold on to the Judeo-Christian truths, whether in a more traditionally religious (ritual) or secular (deritualized) form. In fact, the widespread unwillingness to name this violence for what it is - e.g. the government's latest outlawing of "Islamic terrorism" in favor of "anti-Islamic violence" - is simply a recognition that one may no longer speak higher truths that unveil primitive sacrificial violence for what it is.

maccusgermanis said...

I believe there is an element left undiagnosed in the inversion that you suggest a paradox. We do “possess the means to interact with others to an unprecedented degree,” but that does not necessarily lead to nourishment. Constant eating without digestion –without the turning inward of resources- is no nourishment. The inversion is that the young are encouraged to believe in their own innate ability to nourish the world, rather than to seek that, which will nourish them. They would do well to turn in toward themselves to a greater degree, turning away from the many ill-conceived campaigns to which they are encouraged to give their lives.

Feelings of responsibility, and lack of any resource to improve upon the fault does produce despair.

Dag said...

"They said to Cyrus: [L]et us leave this small and barren country of ours and take possession of a better. There are plenty to choose from...."

Cyrus... replied "that they might act upon it if they pleased, but added the warning that, if they did so, they must prepare themselves to rule no longer, but to be ruled by others. 'Soft countries,' he said, 'breed soft men. It is not the property of any one soil to produce fine fruits and good soldiers too.' The Persians had to admit that this was true and that Cyrus was wiser than they; so they left him, and chose rather to live in a rugged land and rule that to cultivate rich plains and be slaves."

Herodotus, The Histories, final paragraph. Trans. Aubrey De Selincourt.

When there is on offer nothing but blood, sweat, toil and tears it is a good life. A life of ease is a life not even worth hanging around for.

Rob Misek said...

I believe our advancements in communication and information are creating new internal conflicts in the human condition.

While the Media is believed by society to provide the truth. In fact they are only motivated by partisanship, corruption and greed.

Our youth recognize hypocrisy but don't have the wisdom or vision to see the way to overcome it.

For some, a future of corruption is too stressful to bear.

For others, the stress motivates us to overcome the hypocrisy.

We no longer have the alternative or opportunity to censor communication.

We need to pull together, during this time of communication revelation, to share the truth and overcome hypocrisy and corruption.

When we have compiled a new public book of truth, how similar will it be to the Bible?