Posted in Authentic Freedom, mental illness, Spiritual Development, Spiritual Formation, Teenage Suicide

Mass Shooting – Why it’s Easier to Look Away

Another mass shooting? More innocent children and their teachers dying?  Another mentally unstable adult with an assault rifle taking out their unhealed wounds on society and then themselves?

Mass Shooting – The New Normal?

With Wednesday’s mass shooting, we are reminded that violence against the innocent has reached epic proportions, and yet what is sadly true is that this has now become the “new normal.” Even my own children who are loving, caring, compassionate and peaceful young adults simply shrug their shoulders in response.  Yep, it is an everyday occurrence.  For our children, if it isn’t mass shootings it is their peers committing suicide.  Kids are dying.  From the perspective of our children, since nothing is being done about it, then apparently nobody cares.  As children they have no power over how the outside world responds to tragedy, so they are choosing the only response they can (in order to not lose it themselves) – which is to normalize – or rather, to shrug it off as just another example of how they are the victims in a broken world and how they are powerless to do anything about it.  This deeply saddens me.  What exactly has our world come to if teenage suicide and mass shootings are normal and when resignation is our only response?

But is it? Of course not!  But, what our children are realizing is the truth of the very deep societal sin of sloth.

Sloth is refusing the use the brain we have been given to reason, discern and exercise truth.

Instead of recognizing the violence our culture has relaxed into and doing something to change it, we look the other way. We ignore it, shrug or brush it off or project by laying blame on the mental health of the shooter or the students who “didn’t report the problem.”  UGH!  All of these responses are classic examples of sloth.  It is so much easier to look away because if we really SAW what was happening, we would HAVE to do something about it.  Sloth allows us to escape responsibility.  It’s not our problem if we refuse to see it and if we do see it, we know that working to change the system might mean (will definitely mean) changing something about ourselves.  Denial and avoidance are other faces of sloth. A classic example of sloth that might be a little closer to home is the spouse who denies their partner’s alcoholism, or the fact that they are being emotionally abused.  If we don’t see it, we don’t have to do anything about it.

Taught to Look the Other Way

Sadly, sloth is how we are conditioned to behave. This pattern of sloth begins at home in platitudes like, “Speak only when you are spoken to.”  “Don’t make waves.”  “You’re too young to know what is good for you.”  Sloth teaches us that there is an outside perceived authority who is in charge and who knows better than we do what is good for us.  Sloth also teaches us that it is our job to make the outside perceived authority happy and that in order to gain their acceptance (whether that authority be our parents, teachers, pastor, church, peers, or God “himself”) we must obey them.  Sloth teaches us that they are right and we are wrong and not to trust our own truth.  Western culture (American culture especially) has established itself on a model of fear, power and control where the masses are expected to be obedient to those in (perceived) positions of power – the outside perceived authority.

When tragedy strikes, we have been trained to look the other way. To act differently alters the entire scope of Western Society.  More than anything we want to be loved and we know that the very real consequence of seeing and speaking our truth is the withdrawal of that love.  No wonder when mass shootings happen we look the other way.

Choosing Another Response

The good news is that we do not need to continue to act in this way. Instead, we can gather our courage around us and begin to do the difficult work (which isn’t all that difficult once we get started) of OPENING OUR EYES.  We were given a mind to reason, and discern truth.  We have the power to see what is wrong in our world.  With this, we have also been given the power to change it.

mass shootings, teen suicide, mental illness, sloth, open your eyes, seeing the truth
Windows to the Soul by Catherine E. Case

Read Wednesday’s blog, School Shootings – Had Enough Yet? for instructions on how to make that change.

Authentic Freedom Academy provides programs and services which empower us to use the gifts we were given to reason, discern and exercise our truth. Learn more HERE.

Posted in Teenage Suicide

The Causes of Teenage Suicide

The topic of teenage suicide has been high on my list of concerns since the first of two suicides of girls my daughter’s age in the seventh grade. Six of my children’s peers have committed suicide in the same number of years.  When the national statistic for teenage suicide is 7 out of 100,000 students of the same age, the suicide rate in my daughter’s class alone is alarmingly high!  FIVE OUT OF 250!  As a parent, and a psychological and personal development professional, I am deeply concerned!  What is happening with our children and how can we help them?

Teenage suicide is an enormous topic and one that will not be solved through a single action (or blog in this case). But as a dear friend and respected colleague recently stated, our goal around the topic of teenage suicide should be ZERO TOLERANCE. None of our children should be left to believe that suicide is the only way out of whatever difficult situation is troubling them.  Preventing teen suicide and providing support for those who have lost a family member or friend to suicide requires the collaborative efforts of many people, social service, educational and government entities.  Before we can solve the problem of teenage suicide, however, we must first explore the underlying causes of suicide.

CausesofSuicideVisual

While this list is by no means exhaustive, it gives us a glimpse into many pieces of a complicated puzzle that when added up, might lead one to believe death is the only possible solution.

STRESS

Our teens are under an enormous amount of stress. Stress related to:

Relationships – peers, friends, family, cliques, boyfriends, girlfriends, breakups, heartbreak, unrequited love, divorce, etc.

Pressure to Achieve – school, pressure to do well in school, decisions about college and career, pressure from the media, friends, family, pressure to belong, pressure to conform, etc.

The World – as I mentioned in a previous blog, “Our Kids Are Not Alright!,” our world is a mess!  Our children have NEVER not known a world at war!  Our economic and political situations are the worst they’ve ever been.  The educational outlook (the reason for pursuing education post-high school) is grim.  Our children know that the promise of a “financially rewarding career” after college is a lie.  They are facing the very real possibility of not being able to afford college (tuition rates are at an all-time high), and that the only way to attend might be through student loans which will leave them forever indebted to the government and never able to buy their own home.  This is real folks!  And our children know it!

Stress untreated = more stress = apathy = anxiety = depression

 

GRIEF

Every death, change, disappointment, hurt feeling, divorce, physical move, school transfer, breakup, change in the status of friend relationships, etc. triggers grief. In our culture we don’t know how to do grief.  We don’t even know what grief is, let alone how to deal with it.  This is no different for our children.  They are grieving, they might not know they are grieving (or the symptoms of grief), and there are few there to help them (we can’t help them if we don’t know how to grieve ourselves!).

Grief untreated = anxiety and depression

ABUSE

Abuse is rampant in our society and many of our children are living in abusive situations – physical, emotional, mental, verbal, spiritual, sexual, being bullied or neglected. Whether they are being abused, or someone else in their home or close-knit circle of friends is, they suffer the effects of abuse.  On-going abuse can lead to PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other “diagnosable” mental illnesses.

Abuse untreated = anxiety = depression = PTSD = panic attacks

 

POVERTY

While teenage suicide is not unique to any specific socio-economic category, poverty adds another dimension of stress– poverty, hunger, homelessness, poor nutrition, access to quality healthcare (or any healthcare for that matter), transient families, etc. all contribute additional stressors in an already difficult situation that might lead to believing death is ones best option.

Poverty = anxiety = isolation = depression = helplessness = hopelessness

 

LEARNING DISABILITIES, PROCESSING and SENSITIVITY ISSUES

According to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), this category should fall under that of “mental illness.” I refuse to put learning and processing issues under this category as it would only reinforce the false perception that if we learn differently from what the Common Core says is the “norm” there is something “wrong” with us.  While some “learning disabilities” are readily identified and accommodations are able to be made (because this is mandated by the State or Federal government), most are not.  Dyslexia, for example, is one processing issue that often falls through the cracks.  This does not even begin to touch learning style differences and sensitivity issues.  HSP’s (highly sensitive people) are not identified in education, neither are accommodations made for them.  When our children learn by seeing or doing and teaching is not adapted to meet their needs, or accommodations are not offered to help them learn, they can’t learn.  And when they can’t learn, they cannot succeed in education.

Not learning=not achieving=not succeeding=feelings of failure=stress, depression, anxiety, etc.

 

MENTAL ILLNESS

See above! No wonder the number of children who are being treated for symptoms consistent with mental illness – depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, etc. is at an all-time high.  Our children are suffering and much of this remains unrecognized, unacknowledged and therefore, untreated.  Throw in access to healthcare (or rather, the lack thereof) and a culture that is incapable of processing grief and you have a MESS!  Our children need our help!

Depression    Anxiety    Panic Attacks    PTSD

SuicideMindmap

Preventing teenage suicide begins by treating it at its cause. When we go directly to the cause we effectively eliminate the issues that would lead one to believing death is the only answer.  While this approach ultimately means widespread systemic change, the resources are already here, if we know where to look and if we can figure out how to work together toward this common goal.  While we might not save every life, our goal should be to make teenage suicide rare, instead of what has already happened in Oshkosh where teenage suicide has become expected and almost normal.  This is wrong….way wrong, and as parents and professionals, it is our responsibility to do something about it!

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