On the EDge: The tragedy of teen suicide

Composite Stock Image, St. George News

OPINION – Bruce Springsteen led his interviewer Anthony Mason of CBS News down a quiet street in his native Freehold, New Jersey, a medium-size working class neighborhood about 30 minutes from the Jersey shore.

Mason joined Springsteen Sept. 6 on a surprise visit to his old school at St. Rose of Lima Catholic Church where Springsteen is now beloved.

It wasn’t always that way.

“I’m gettin’ the willies,” Springsteen said, walking into a classroom.

“Did I read they called you ‘Springy’?” Mason asked.

“Yes. That is correct, my friend. Amongst many other things,” Springsteen replied.

“How did you do when you were here?”

“Not particularly well, you know. I didn’t fit in the box so well.”

The scars remain for one of rock ‘n’ roll’s most powerful, respected icons, even as he approaches his 67th birthday on Friday.

In his book, you hear the story of the depression that marks his DNA, inherited from his father.

In his music, you hear the struggle of his characters, their fears, self-loathing, esteem issues, some self-inflicted, others not. We now know of Springsteen’s connection to his often-desperate characters.

Springsteen even talks these days about the darkness that swallowed him up and emerged as serious thoughts of suicide that seemed stuck in his brain as he recorded his critically acclaimed album “Nebraska.”

Yes, there is a darkness on the edge of town that can pull us into the shadows, even if we are Bruce Springsteen, with all of his money and fame, something we sadly witnessed when actor Robin Williams took his own life.

So what chance do we have in saving our children?

I am feeling guilty right now.

Not long ago, I read a report about the frightening numbers of our young Utah people who have taken their own lives.

The report told us that suicide is the leading cause of death among 10- to 17-year-olds in Utah, that the suicide rate here is double the national average, that health officials, educators, parents and those who care are frantically looking for answers.

I had planned to do a column on those staggering numbers, if for no other reason than to send out a warning that would, perhaps, open some eyes to this tragedy, to, perhaps, save a life.

Things got in the way as the news cycle turned and I put it off.

In the interim, we lost another young life.

I don’t know if anything written in this little corner of the world would have prevented it, but there is a chance it might have, and I have this sense of guilt.

I have heard some stories about this latest loss, but all of the facts are not clear, so there will be no attempt to place that terrible reality on the table and dissect it.

But, we can talk about the dangers that provoke so many of our young people to decide that death is a better option.

First of all, to you young folks, it is not.

All it does is take you from us.

It ends a life that held so much promise, so much hope.

It renders those left to cope with the death numb.

It exposes our humanity and inhumanity at once.

There are many reasons why we are losing our young people to suicide, from esteem issues to religious ostracism.

None of those reasons, however, justify taking one’s own life.

Whether you are the quiet, quirky little mouse in the corner of the classroom, the gay teen coming to grips with his or her sexual identity, the questioning religious soul searching for a connection to their Creator that bypasses the many charlatans who manipulate morality to suit their own purposes, or simply the confused, frightened countenance of youth, there are ways to overcome and not succumb to the excruciating mental and emotional pain that results in suicide.

There are people who care.

Maybe they are parents.

Maybe there’s a teacher with a warm heart and understanding.

Maybe there’s a friend with a streak of wisdom and love.

But, there are people who can help.

Just take that one extra minute, seek them out, listen.

We can debate the various influences that contribute to teen suicide.

We can argue about the availability of guns, since 45 percent of all teen suicides are committed with a handgun. But, what about the others?

We can argue about the role religion plays, particularly in light of some recent religious positions dealing with homosexuality. But not all of these young people are gay.

There’s the bullying aspect, of course, and problems in the home – from sexual to emotional abuse – that are also contributors.

There must have been, those many years ago when I was young, incidents of teen suicide, but for the life of me, I cannot remember one occurring during my high school years. The closest we came was when one former classmate took his life the morning after his five-year reunion because he missed the simplicity of his high school days, from the very popular local band he played in to the comfort of a care-free, middle-class existence supported by loving parents and a community of friends that he could not duplicate out on his own as he tried to build a career in the music business.

That doesn’t mean we were smarter, better, or anything else other than luckier than many young people today; lucky because life didn’t come tumbling down upon us so heavily, perhaps.

I don’t have any answers or reasons for this tragic loss of young life, but I do know that there are trained, caring people who can help you through a crisis.

The University of Utah’s Neuropsychiatric Institute has created a free and anonymous app called Safe-UT, released last January, that will answer any and all texts from suicidal teens 24 hours a day. There is also a hotline open 24 hours a day at 801-587-3000.

There are other numbers you can call – 800-784-2433 and 800-273-8255 – where counselors are available any time of day or night.

Share these numbers, please, because you never know how badly somebody is hurting inside.

Ed Kociela is an opinion columnist. The opinions stated in this article are his and not representative of St. George News.

Email: [email protected]

Twitter: @STGnews, @EdKociela

Copyright St. George News, SaintGeorgeUtah.com LLC, 2016, all rights reserved.

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  • Common Sense September 21, 2016 at 6:48 am

    Srpingsteen….really Ed?

  • .... September 21, 2016 at 8:27 am

    LOL ! you ragging on Ed for using the name Bruce Springsteen in the article and your nic is Common Sense. and you didn’t spell Springsteen right ! LOL ! Ha ha ha ha ha. don’t get mad but that’s funny stuff right there !

  • aviatormh September 21, 2016 at 12:01 pm

    Every life is priceless. Ed did a good job of reporting without pointing finger’s. I never thought I would say this but Ed finally gave us a report without bias and was well written. As I said every life is priceless and the reason’s for thinking about ending it are deeply personal to each person regardless of how anyone else may view it. Thank you Ed for you attention to this issue.

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