Youth suicide and education

The cultivation of transcendence, finding meaning in life, the spiritual dimension of the person must be cultivated if we do not want to leave our young people amputated in their souls.

Javier Segura-February 7, 2022-Reading time: 3 minutes

The number of suicides among young people and adolescents is alarming and, above all, how the incidence is increasing to the point of becoming the leading cause of death among young people. Society is becoming aware of this. The media and teachers are talking about it with great concern. How can this scourge be prevented?

Adolescence is a particularly unstable time and many boys and girls go through experiences that are difficult to overcome because psychologically they are at a difficult time. There is a component at this age that adds to the problem of suicide. And it is clear that the pandemic and the management we have made of it, locking everyone at home, filling their minds with fears, taking away their social relationships has not exactly helped them to have an emotional balance.

But beyond these two keys, we must ask ourselves whether something really effective should be done in the educational field to fight against suicide among young people. Initiatives such as the telephone of hope are laudable and necessary, but we have to ask ourselves sincerely, without blaming ourselves, about this issue in depth. Is there something wrong with the education we give our children and adolescents, what else can we do from the family and from the school?

The first idea that comes to my mind is that it is necessary to introduce in formal education, and much more in the education they receive at home, an area where they work precisely to fill life with meaning, the most transcendent dimension of the person. Evidently this is done from the subject of Religion with the ultimate reference to God as the meaning of life. But undoubtedly it should be a learning that could reach all students, since it is an essential dimension of the person. The cultivation of transcendence, finding a meaning for life, the spiritual dimension of the person must be cultivated if we do not want to leave our young people amputated in their soul. And this does not have to be done from the perspective of the Catholic religion. There are other worldviews that try to answer the great questions of the human being. And students have the right to know them.

In this line was the proposal that the Spanish Episcopal Conference made to the Ministry of Education when it presented an area that would work on this humanistic dimension from different options and that, unfortunately, the Ministry rejected. The questions about the meaning of pain, of death, the deepest hopes and the most intimate longings of the heart, the very question about God, are in the minds and hearts of young people. And an education that does not address these issues is simply an education that lacks an essential dimension.

Secondly, it is necessary to make a radical self-criticism. We have not prepared our young people for suffering and frustration. Our education -including that which we give in the family and parish environments- fails miserably in this regard. I read in an article in which a father gave testimony about the suicide of his son, that when a young person commits suicide what he really wants is to stop suffering, not so much to end his life. And it is true. We have taught our adolescents many skills and knowledge, except the ability to suffer. We have hidden from them that suffering, failure, pain are as much a part of life as joy, growth or happiness. As a result, they do not know how to manage the hardest experiences in life.

Filling life with meaning, instilling reasons for hope, is the positive way to move forward. Developing the capacity to accept suffering and difficulties, knowing how to accept them and learn from them, is also another way to get out of life's potholes. These are the two wings that allow us to take flight when the shadow stalks us and hovers over us.

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