A recent ABC program on teen suicide (see here) focused on a couple of alarming local City of Casey stories. This hit home because the region is the outer south-eastern municipality of Melbourne in which I live. It also included a forum hosted by the federal member of parliament which showcased a psychiatrist and then fielded questions taken from the many people gathered. Despite the anguish and heartbreak of those relating stories of lost loved ones who had taken their lives, the program sadly offered no real answers on the suicide problem that appears to be a growing trend in developed nations.
It may, of course be very difficult to be precise about solutions when the causes are diverse. Mental health issues are complex and largely medical in nature, so simplistic solutions are not a cure-all. In his recent report on the wellbeing of Australian children (see here), Professor Patrick Parkinson suggests that an alarming one in four 16-24 year olds have a mental disorder and that a further quarter experience moderate to severe psychological distress! However, one of his recommendations is that governments invest into community groups that promote welfare. Aside from schools, Church youth groups are perhaps the most widespread and likely of sources for this outcome to be achieved.
Another study conducted in 1999 by the American Psychological Association similarly found that participation in “religious activities” is a significant shaper of self-esteem. Conducted by the University of Michigan in 1999, the survey found that, “people who rated themselves as being ‘very religious’ answered each of the four positive indicators of self-esteem in a more positive manner.” This was deemed most significant for the early teens, where religion could be one of the pillars on which kids could stand in times of difficulty.
That church youth groups could supersede the impact of sports clubs and other organisations might seem ludicrous to some, but that is largely because of an anti-religious bias. Churches offer social and spiritual benefits that are a vital missing piece of the youth suicide puzzle and which are not seen anywhere else in society, other than in certain individual families.
Tomorrow, we will explore this link further, with insights from more research as we seek to provide constructive solutions to the suicide problem deemed endemic to contemporary teens.