The New Yorker is usually relied upon to bring me, and then you, humor. However, it brought me, and now you, some horrifically bad news. A heart wrenching article The Mystifying Rise in Child Suicide . “Last October, the American Academy of Pediatrics declared that the pandemic had accelerated the worrying trends in child and adolescent mental health, resulting in what it described as a “national emergency.”
It was heart wrenching as the author, Andrew Solomon, knew Trevor, the young man whose life and death was detailed, It was written with the permission of Trevor’s mother, who provided the painful details of her son’s battle. I shall provide you the link so that you can read for yourself the heart break, of it all. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2022/04/11/the-mystifying-rise-of-child-suicide?utm_source=onsite-share&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=onsite-share&utm_brand=the-new-yorker
I shall quote the troubling statistical facts. “The sooner depressed or suicidal children receive treatment, the more likely they are to recover, but children remain radically undertreated. There are too few child psychologists and psychiatrists, and most pediatricians are insufficiently informed about depression. Research suggests that only one out of five American adolescents who end up in a hospital after attempting suicide is transferred to a mental-health facility, and access is predictably worse among the poor and in communities of color. According to the National Institute of Mental Health, of the three million American adolescents who experienced major depression in 2020, almost two-thirds received no treatment. Scott Rauch, the president of McLean Hospital, near Boston, and a professor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, told me, “The convergence between stigma and long-standing traditions of not supporting this kind of care is the shame of our nation.” The authors of a study on the absence of any evidence-based treatment for under-twelves with inclinations toward suicide—“suicidality,” in the psychiatric parlance—wrote, “That so little about this topic exists in the professional literature is baffling. Does it perhaps reflect a collective level of denial that children are simply incapable of such thoughts?”
Other scientists and parents of children of suicidal children contribute to an understanding of the problem.
“Parents can’t fathom and don’t want to fathom their kids doing it, so they underinvest in making sure it doesn’t happen,” Brad Hunstable, who lost his twelve-year-old son to suicide in 2020, told me. “Most pediatricians know how to test for lead poisoning. They know how to tell you what percentile you are in height. They don’t know how to screen for suicidal ideation.”
Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of child suicide is its unpredictability. A recent study published in the Journal of Affective Disorders found that about a third of child suicides occur seemingly without warning and without any predictive signs, such as a mental-health diagnosis, though sometimes a retrospective analysis points to signs that were simply missed. Jimmy Potash, the chair of the psychiatry department at Johns Hopkins, told me that a boy who survived a suicide attempt described the suddenness of the impulse: seeing a knife in the kitchen, he thought, I could stab myself with that, and had done so before he had time to think about it. When I spoke to Christine Yu Moutier, who is the chief medical officer at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, she told me that, in children, “the moment of acute suicidal urge is very short-lived. It’s almost like the brain can’t keep up that rigid state of narrowed cognition for long.” This may explain why access to means is so important; children living in homes with guns have suicide rates more than four times higher than those of other children.
Children contemplate suicide far more often than parents may realize. According to a 2020 study in The Lancet, among nine- to ten-year-olds, one in twelve reported having had suicidal thoughts, and another recent study found that nearly half of parents whose adolescent children had been contemplating suicide were unaware of this. As a result, parents may be left forever wondering what would have happened if they’d walked in ten minutes sooner or hadn’t had that one argument. So many families told me that there had been no hint.”
Bullying is strongly associated with suicide, not only the victims but the perpetrators.
By the age of thirteen, more than a third of bullies have actively considered ending their lives, according to a study published in the Journal of Adolescent Health. Children who are both bullies and victims are particularly predisposed to suicide, with nearly half reporting a suicide attempt or self-harm. What’s more, the omnipresence of social media has created new venues for bullying. Jean Twenge, a psychology professor at San Diego State University, found that teens who spend five or more hours a day online are nearly twice as likely to have suicidal tendencies as those who spend less than an hour. Parents of kids who have died by suicide have recently begun filing lawsuits against the social-media companies that perpetuate the algorithms that kept their children online; Matthew Bergman, a litigator in Seattle who works on such cases, compares the proof of harm to the campaigns against the tobacco and asbestos industries.”
So that you, gentle readers, can get an idea of the pathos so humanely presented by the compassionate author I shall quote the article’s last two paragraphs. But first, to understand the concepts. Pathos is a quality that evokes pity or sadness:. Other descriptive words are: tragedy, sadness, pitifulness, piteousness, pitiableness, plaintiveness, sorrowfulness. Humane is having or showing compassion or benevolence. Wikipedia discusses humanity: Humanity is a virtue linked with basic ethics of altruism derived from the human condition. It also symbolises human love and compassion towards each other. Humanity differs from mere justice in that there is a level of altruism towards individuals included in humanity more so than the fairness found in justice.[ That is, humanity, and the acts of love, altruism, and social intelligence are typically individual strengths while fairness is generally expanded to all. Humanity can be classed as one of six virtues that are consistent across all cultures.
The concept goes back to the development of “humane” or “humanist” philosophy during the Renaissance (with predecessors in 13th-century scholasticism stressing a concept of basic human dignity inspired by Aristotelianism) and the concept of humanitarianism in the early modern period, and resulted in modern notions such as “human rights”. The Wikipedia entry ends in the world of research. Although only a relatively new field of inquiry for psychological researchers, character strengths and virtues have been consistently measured in psychometric surveys and have been shown to be positively associated with psychological and subjective wellbeing.”
These are the words describing Trevor’s mother expression of grief over her son’s death. “ Grief is inherently lonely, and there are as many ways to grieve as there are human beings. Billy sought out books and people who could provide philosophical perspective, while Angela was spurred to a focussed dynamism, an outward-facing construction of her son’s legacy. “I had one responsibility as a mother,” Angela said, “and it was to keep my child alive. And I failed at it.” When I asked her whether she was outraged or just sad, she said, “I’m so ashamed that I failed him.” She was spending as much time as possible in the country—“because Trevor was only alive here.” She had learned that you can preserve your late child’s clothing in ziplock bags and their scent will remain years later; she would go into Trevor’s room to smell his clothes, because that made her feel close to him. “I feel often not just lonely but utterly alone,” she said.”
Do I have a solution to this national emergency. Perhaps I do. Should the USA become a Muslim majority nation, And IF the adherents practiced the faith faithfully – it would not be a problem. Suicide is forbidden in the Islamic faith – Allah alone gives life and takes life. A child raised in the faith would have hope – would know that proper behavior would bring them to Jannah, to Paradise. Allah would be with them to ease their loneliness and despair.
Americans instead “collectively deny that children are incapable of thoughts of suicide. That is not at all helpful, to say the very least.
This is an intensely personal solution to the problem. Rashid and I have an imaginary daughter, It was initially his idea but she became alive to me and she is to him. It was his idea and he named her Amal. She is about two but is very smart.
He had ‘custody’ of her the other day.
Me: Did Amal hear your African poems this morning?
He: Yes, she was very happy! Cannot wait to read her your blogs. Maybe when she turns five.
Once, late at night, he texted.
He: Kiss Amal good night for me.
Me: I thought you had her. We are going to loose her if we do not keep better track of this.
He: Hahahaha ?
And then this.
Me: I hope Amal is sleeping and not reading.
He: She is on her iPad.
Me: Great!! You are SO funny
He: We are both funny,
Me: And she is too. She takes after her parents.
For me this is healing. My childhood did not involve a caring father. Her Daddy driven Arabic name is Hope. She gives me Hope. My hotel room has a child’s dress, mine from years ago.
He: I hope Amal will fit into your dress. The one by your bed.
Me: That is so sweet. I am sure she will. She will be tall like her daddy though. So it might be a bit short. But both of her parents have great legs and good ankles. So no problem
No photograph. Cannot think of one suitable. Oh perhaps the one from the other day showing the dress.