The Ugly Side of America, Part 6: Teen suicide, teen drug abuse and teen bullying.

Substance Abuse

It appears that there is a lack of intervention by our society/culture regarding the current epidemic of teen suicide, teen drug abuse and teen bullying.  Many teens are in serious trouble mentally and emotionally.  They feel hopeless, helpless, abandoned, neglected, misunderstood, unloved, and many parents are unaware of the thoughts that are percolating in their children’s minds.  America’s love affair with drugs and alcohol, violence, sex and money are ruining the lives of teens. Add poverty to the mix, absentee parents and physical or sexual abuse, you will quickly see that the future of these children is not a bright one. Without a societal intervention, children will continue to engage in high risk behavior that often ends in death. Mental illness exists at alarming rates. Without diagnosis and treatment, children will eventually self-medicate with drugs, alcohol, sex, or seek a way out of their misery by killing themselves. Teen cutting is another problem that is happening mainly among teenage girls. This is sometimes a precursor to suicide, if left unchecked. The stress of middle school appears to be  one of the main problems that children have trouble coping with. Trying to belong, to fit in as well as meet the expectations of their parents and the schools they attend often are too much for many children to handle.  The pressure of drugs and sex is also prevalent.  Social networking adds another dimension that has caused many of these problems to reach crisis proportions. The internet has brought about the kind of exposure to children that they never had before.  Internet usage is not as closely monitored as it should be by parents. Many parents have no idea what their kids are doing on the internet.  There is so much sex and violence on the internet that many kids do not know what to do with so much information.  They can’t possibly process it much less understand the ramifications of being exposed to so much.  Kids feel powerless as they try to make sense of their world and exercise control over it.  It is indeed a scary thought that this is the future generation.  Priorities are not what they should be. Families are in crisis. Parents are working too much and are unavailable emotionally to their children.  Children are looking for structure, guidance, presence, attention, love, understanding and a healthy relationship with their parents.  Since the expansion of the internet and violent video games, teen suicide rates and teen violence against others has increased.  If mental illness is present and goes undetected, the potential for disaster is a given.  An example is Columbine, Virginia Tech and more recently Tucson, Arizona.  Many parents don’t see the signs, are in denial, or don’t know what to look for. Some parents minimize their children’s symptoms and are then surprised when tragedy strikes. We are still afraid to talk about mental illness.  We need to start the dialog and look at our own family histories of depression, anxiety, bi-polar disorder, schizophrenia as well as suicide.  Most mental disorders can be treated with successful outcomes. But they have to be identified as soon as signs and symptoms present themselves.  The community needs to play a larger role in taking care of its families.  The family is in peril but it can be turned around through education about mental and emotional disorders, family interventions such as therapy and hospitalization if necessary.  The stigma about mental illness needs to be removed so that people can get the help that they need.  Family meetings help children and their parents talk about problems and come up with solutions.  Spending quality time with children helps children feel valued and important.  Learning effective parenting skills is also helpful as no parent has all the answers and as the saying goes “children don’t come with instructions”.  Children need to grow in an environment of love, acceptance and nurturance.  If they feel no one cares about them or that they are not being listened to, they will seek attention wherever they can find it and not always in the right places. Nothing can replace time spent with a child. Many children are not hopeful about the future.  Hope, possibility and goal setting need to be instilled.  This is difficult to achieve if parents don’t have a positive outlook themselves.  The violence, drugs and sex in our culture is truly at epidemic proportions.  Heroin use is up among middle school and high school students along with prescription drugs, such as painkillers, and alcohol.  Overdosing is common as well as death from overdosing or car accidents due to being under the influence.   Let’s not throw away the next generation. Let’s all do something now.

About snaffy

18 years ago I decided to go back to school to get my degree after being out of school for 20 years. This was after I had given birth at the age of 43 to a much wanted baby girl. She is now 19 and in her second year of college and I am a Licensed Clinical Social Worker in private practice. I love stories about resilience, determination and how people overcome obstacles to reach their dreams. I believe the glass is always half full and try to promote positive thinking. But I also realize that there is a lot of negativity in the world that we have to contend with. The challenge is to live a full and positive life in a world filled with strife. So I remain hopeful that the world will evolve into a peaceful place. Until then I will continue to see the possibilities. My user name comes from the nickname that my father used to call me.
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