Promoting Hope, Preventing Suicide

Research and advice on preventing teen and adult suicide

Teen Suicide: Why Is It So Hard To Talk About It?

If three Newton teens had died in the past six months, I would still feel exhausted and saddened by it. But, the whole truth is that three young people died by suicide. Without acknowledging the reality of suicide, we can’t work toward preventing it. Read More

Having graduated Newton

Having graduated Newton schools (though it was almost 2 decades ago), I am confused by many of the professional reactions to these suicides as expressed in the media. One psychologist was quoted in the Globe saying something to the effect that people only commit suicide because of depression or despair. The stress that teens feel in Newton and similar cities often does lead to extreme despair. Thankfully, suicides among these teens are relatively infrequent, but for most Newton North or South graduates, these suicides are not shocking.

A typical high-achieving Newton teenager would be extremely successful in most other communities. The concentration of highly-motivated students, often pressed to succeed by highly educated parents, means that most students who work 70 to 80 hours a week on schoolwork and extra-curriculurs still have no chance of being exceptional in their community. Such extreme commitment to grades, sports, theater, etc. with little immediate payment can create an overwhelming feeling of despair that there is no way to truly excel, that the success they believe their community expects of them is beyond their control.

Moreover, most students' lives are built entirely around the school. Academics and extra-curricular activities are the focus of life. Few have any significant friendships outside of the school community. This leads to a lack of opportunities to mentally escape from the peer pressure, parent pressure, and community pressure to succeed.

Much of this stress is likely created in the students' minds, but the parents and the community often approve of it, because it drives the students to get into that desired Ivy League school. As an Ivy League graduate myself, I think the stress of Newton graduates (and those from similar communities across the country) is much more intense than the stress of other students who eventually make it to Ivy League schools. Many Ivy League students were the top student or one of the top students in their high school classes. Yet, that is not the case for the vast majority of Ivy Leaguers from Newton. Often an Ivy League student from Newton can go to college feeling like he/she is just another nameless, faceless part of the heard, that he/she has accomplished nothing and has no control. For a student who works very, very hard, it can be disheartening when neither praise nor appreciation follows. The result can be a feeling of helplessness in the continued drudgery of life that may seemingly never end. I think that would qualify as despair.

I, for one, would never raise a kid in Newton schools.

suicide prevention

It is so sad to see teenagers take there own lives thinking that it will solve their problems. The suicides stated in this article are about Children from Newton and how there stress level is the cause of there suicide. I feel that there is a lot of teen suicide due to the amount of stress that children now have to carry. I feel that the amount of stress on children has double throughout the years. For example 20 years ago our children were not expected to learn the things children are now learning. Our children are required to do so much, so soon, yes it makes them better people, but in the end is all the stress they have worth there health and perhaps there lives. A person can only take so much before they break. Maby the suicide rates are sign that we are making our children grow up to fast, and instead of handling there problems they commit suicide because the amount of stress is too great and they are tired of carrying it.

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Elana Premack Sandler, M.S.W., M.P.H., is a public health social worker specializing in violence and injury prevention and adolescent health promotion.

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