Am I Perfect Yet?

August 9, 2011
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In today’s society, there is pressure from literally everywhere to be the best. You must have the best grades, the best friends, the best family, the best clothes, etc. You must be perfect, or as close to perfect as possible, to truly be accepted into today’s society. But why? And how is this unceasing pressure to be perfect damaging our teenagers? The teen years are already difficult and trying enough; add in mental illness and serious emotional problems, and is it really surprising that these scared, confused teens to go to extreme measures when they see no other way out?

Perhaps some of the rise in teen suicides could be due to how public the issue of teen suicide has become. Say that a teenager, let’s call her Leanne, is sitting at home alone watching TV and she sees a broadcast about a teenager who killed themselves. She listens to the story: how depressed the teenager was, how they’d been bullied, put under unceasing stress by their parents and teachers, and finally saw no way out. Leanne may see this news broadcast and realize how similar she feels to that deceased teen and think maybe her own way out would be killing herself too. A thought that may never have crossed Leanne’s mind is now all she thinks about. And as each little mishap, bad grade, and argument adds up in Leanne’s life a way out seems like a better and better idea. So would it be better if the media just didn’t publicize suicide at all? Well let’s look at a different effect the story could have on a teenager. Another teenager, we’ll call him Jake, is watching the same news broadcast about the teen who committed suicide; Jake has the same problems as the deceased teen, but seeing this story may have a very different effect on Jake then it had on Leanne. While Leanne saw this story and decided that perhaps this was the way for her to end her misery, Jake may see the people who are left behind after this tragic event; he may see the parents whose lives have been ripped apart, the friends who’ve lost someone who they turned to for advice and hanging out, the person they laughed until they cried with. Jake may see the damage that is left behind when this teenager committed suicide, and realize that he would never want to cause that extreme agony to those he loved. In this case, perhaps having suicide publicized is a good idea. One reason for publicizing suicide cases are to get their stories out there, and let people know that this awful thing is a reality for many people, and that it happens to all sorts of people. Depression and mental illness doesn’t discriminate; it can happen to anyone.

There are many reasons why a teenager may commit suicide. Perhaps they feel a sense of worthlessness, as if they’ll never be good enough, and never fit into what they see as a perfect world. It could be that a teen has been relentlessly bullied until they’re pushed to a breaking point and just want all of the insults and abuse to end, at any cost. Many teenagers see suicide as the only way out, the last hope in a world that has lost all color and meaning. Often times, it is the pressure that a teen is put under that they feel they just can’t handle, but they may feel as if they can’t bear to fail, so they just decide to end it all. Teens may be scared and confused, and feel hopelessly alone, as if no one understands them, and they may be too afraid to ask for help. For a lot of teens, they don’t want to admit to people that they have a problem. In today’s world where things are focused so much on perfection, mental illness is looked down upon as something wrong with a person. Depression is not a choice or a bad mood; it is a serious illness that has severe damages to the body. Depression may cause a person to literally get sick, excruciating stomach aches are common as is fatigue and lack of sleep. This person may get sore very easily and not be able to participate in sports and other activities. Regardless, being depressed is not something this person has decided to do, and it is not really something they can control. So then who is to blame? Is it the media? Is it modern day stress? Stress is certainly the largest contributor to teen suicide. In an article published by HomerNews.com, it said how psychologists are seeing disturbing trends in the stressed out teen, such as a tripling of teen suicide since 1980. The same article said likely contributors to this increase in teen suicide are exhaustion, sleep deprivation, over-scheduling, and younger and younger kids multitasking. Basically, children are running themselves into the ground to become the best and reach the perfect status today’s society demands. An article done by THE WIP discussed these suicide trends, stating that suicide is the third leading cause of death in teenagers. THE WIP also included some warning signs that a teen may be thinking of attempting suicide. Some of these signs are a teen withdrawing from their friends, sudden changes in behavior, self-destructive behavior, and giving away treasured possessions. The latter is perhaps the most disturbing, because it a very clear way of the teen saying goodbye. Three steps for suicide prevention have been developed by The World Health Organization: limiting accessibility to toxic drugs and guns, enhancing social support networks, and simply treating mental illness.

While stress is certainly the largest contributor to teen suicide today, perhaps the second largest contributor would be our society and social culture. Many psychologists have been describing this new rise in teen suicide and teenage depression as almost a trend that teens are following. In an article posted by Belize News, Dr. Isabel Tun talked about this new subculture “EMO.” This new ‘emo’ trend actually comes from the type of music from the 1980s, “hardcore punk rock.” The lyrics of this type of music were then described as “hardcore emotional.” Tun said that “’To be Emo became equated with being emotional, sensitive, and suffering from great angst.’” Another part of this Emo subculture would be the appearance these teens have adopted. The Emo clothing most often consists of black clothing, studded belts, skinny jeans, and shirts with band names on them. Hair is often either bleached blond or dyed black with long bangs that hang over one side of the teen’s face. Their appearance is often used to show the deep feelings and somberness of the teens’ anguish. So, has this new trendy fad let to an increase in teen suicide? Many teens find this look very cool, and that it sets them apart from what they see as the traditional expectation of society, as well as using this style and attitude as a type of rebellion against peoples’ expectations of a perfect teen. Then what is a larger contributor to this rise in teen suicide: the rebellion against perfect, or the desperate quest to perfection? It is more likely due to some teens’ desperation to be perfect. Rebelling against perfection is just giving up on reaching certain goals, which is certainly easier than actually attempting those goals. Also, following a trend doesn’t make a teenager depressed or suicidal; it may just change their appearance and attitude toward those around them.

While certainly not all teenagers participate in this Emo culture, some teens do commit suicide without really wanting to, or believing in it. In an article from Christian Worldview Examiner, Bill Belew wrote about a Sonoma County teenager who attempted suicide by jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge; the teen survived and was rescued by a surfer who was at the scene, Larry Young. Afterwards, the student told Young “’I did it for fun.’” The teen that jumped was on a field trip to the Golden Gate Bridge with 45 other students.

In a graph from the National Center for Health Statistics on the teen suicide rate from 1960 to 1990, it showed a perfectly steady increase. In 1960, the suicide rate of 15-24 year olds was about 4 per 100,000. In 1990, it had risen above 11 per 100,000. Wikipedia.org stated that in 2004, there were 4,599 suicides in people 15-24 years old in the U.S. alone. It also reported that depression is the highest cause of teen suicide, with 75% of teen suicides the result of severe depression. When teenagers are growing up in today’s grueling and demanding society, it’s difficult for them to catch their breath and take some time to breathe. Staying up until two o clock in the morning to finish editing that paper, or having to make up at 3:30am to make that 5am sports practice is obviously not healthy; do parents and teachers fully realize this though? Most parents think that their children are the best and that they can do it all; all teachers like to think that their students are the best because of their teaching. So then, could you say that a child is driven to suicide, because they’ve been driven into the ground by their parents and teacher who don’t want to lose that image they’ve created of their perfect child? There is a cartoon-type picture from Deviontart of a girl who has just committed suicide; she is pressed up against a wall, seeming to be hanging onto the wall, and she is covered from head to toe in blood. Right above her head, in blood, she has written “I didn’t mean to do that.” This picture is showing the gruesome side of suicide, and that, if the people who attempted suicide lived, there would probably be a large percent of them who regretted it. Perhaps then these teens who attempt/commit suicide don’t fully realize the extent of the devastation they leave behind. However, there are certainly many cases in which these now dead teens may not regret what they have done. Many teens that have attempted suicide but lived, as well as suicide notes left by those who did die, have apologized profusely for how much they know they’ll hurt everyone with their actions, but the teen simply sees absolutely no other way out.

Then who is to blame? And is there blame at all? Depression, which is the leading cause of teen suicide, is a serious mental illness; the people afflicted don’t think straight and they’re unable to see things clearly, and the frustration resulting from this may cause the teen to take drastic measures and take their own life. So is it today’s society that may be pushing teens to commit suicide? It absolutely must, in some case, be the cause. This pushing our teens further and further is dangerous and we all have our limits, so is it really any wonder that teens just ‘lose it’ when they’ve been pushed beyond theirs? Perfection is an impossible standard which no one lives by. So why are we pushing our teens to be this impossible standard, when we know that being perfect is impossible; so then are we setting them up for failure when they realize they’ll never be perfect. Our society needs to not focus so much on the goals society has set, and more on the goals the teenager has set, and the things they want to accomplish for themselves. No one is perfect, so isn’t it a little understandable that these teens just want a way out in the end? Modern day society and stress is definitely a major role in teenage suicide. So how do we change that?





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