Driving a significant distance to work is a clear and present danger for a hypochondriac. In case you had not noticed, billboards are increasingly about sickness. One drive to work could leave him wondering about the ten most important questions to ask a doctor, suspicious that he might have lupus, ADHD, Alzheimer’s, or certain that he is suffering from autism to some degree. In the public schools we incessantly talk about and try to normalize disorder. The entire public school system is grounded in disorder. We are compelled to talk about mental illness, intellectual deficiency, gender issues, blood borne pathogens, the flu, and many other kinds of poverty and disease prevention strategies. The latest disordered issue sweeping across elementary school campuses is youth suicide.
The culture of death is insidious and ubiquitous. Satan and his minions have their favorite haunts, like the mainstream media, politics, healthcare, the public schools, and the field of psychology. It is hard to determine where the plagues of the Culture of Death are festering most, but festering they are and in more places than the above mentioned.
I have been in the public schools as a “teacher” for nearly a quarter of a century. Sometimes I think I am so clever that I have heard and seen the most ridiculous things humans can say and do, and then out of nowhere I am staggered by something even weirder than I could have imagined. Yesterday was one of those shocking days.
We were assaulted by an enemy I had not yet seen. It came in the form of a bizarre but vivacious old woman- butch short gray hair, hunched over, jaw jutting forth with a set of false teeth, a rock hard countenance forged in the 60s and a passionate zeal for spreading the secular humanist gospel of salvation by education. She spoke in a crackly high pitched whine about the need to talk to every single child from age five through high school about suicide. She recommended that we have regular classroom discussions, then branch out to small groups and individuals and get that conversation started.
The tone and tenor of her screed was so disconcerting that I finally had to interject, “Madam, don’t you think talking to such young children about suicide and death in this way is a destruction of innocence?” She screeched at me “DO YOU WANT THEM TO DIE? I love these children, all of them. I WANT THEM TO LIVE! Five year olds are killing themselves these days!” She proceeded to threaten us with legal action. She called it “criminal negligence” if someone happened to kill themselves on our watch. (Note to self: include in teacher-student contract “I will not kill myself while Mr. R. is my teacher.”)
Well this was thirty minutes that felt like an eternity but there was that familiar “staff meeting inner silence” where everything else is white noise, and I got to do some good thinking. This lady threw out statistics, blame, praise, hate, platitudes, folk sayings, jargon, and tons of gobbledygook. It occurred to me: if there is a profession on planet Earth that knows less about a true anthropology than public education it is the field of psychology.
Psychologists take direction from their ever-morphing Diagnostic Statistical Manuals (DSM)—a guide that evolves, ebbs and flows with the swaying pathologies oozing for the pores of the fetid body of statistical social science. They reduce the human to a bag of molecules with hormones driving “perfectly natural urges” that must be satisfied, or we risk ending up with a serial killer. All morality is relative and guilt is imaginary and imposed as a form of torture to control others, usually by patriarchal white men. Credence in this ever-changing tome is as foolish as it is dangerous.
This mad woman, spouting the pseudo-wisdom of the DSM said “suicide happens to all kinds of people, it happens to everyone. I come from a superb family, an excellent family BFD! Suicide runs rampant in my family. And it can run rampant in your family too.” After going into excruciating detail about her personal mental illnesses—I assure you no slight afflictions—she exclaimed “BFD!” again. She cackled “everybody is mentally ill SO WHAT—we have to GET OVER IT! DE-STIGMATIZE IT!”
Next, the lady alerted us to the signs of suicide risk. They included irritability, changing friends, depression, being easily swayed by the media, limited communication with parents, and an inability to concentrate. This describes all my male students. The suicide prevention expert assured us that if we get the person into the right program everything will be all right. I immediately thought of that series called Intervention—where something like 98% of all the people they save from drug use relapse when they are finished with the program.
Far from making light of the issue of youth suicide, it is a vitally important topic about which something must be done—just not what the experts are saying. The rapidly decaying morality of our society is helping to form citizens with dead souls, making suicides a punctuation mark in some cases. Since the 1950s, suicide among young adults has tripled to about twelve for every 100,000 people. For every successful suicide there are 100 attempts. For every attempt there are 1000 fantasies about suicide. Among young adults, boys are six times more likely to kill themselves than girls.
The folks in the field of psychology commit a profane rage against order, the Creator, objective morality, human nature and the virtues but surely they must be aware of Goethe’s The Sorrow of Young Werther and the fact that the sociologist David Phillips coined the term “the Werther effect” to describe the copycat suicide, the suicide contagion, the imitative suicidal behavior transmitted via the mass media? And now these people want to scream about suicide from the rooftops? The suicide ambassador assured us that talking about it to all children will not increase suicide at all; “all the studies bear this out” she assured us.
It is the most outrageous arrogance that this group thinks they can take members of this culture steeped in death for so long and cut off from the culture of life for even longer and save them from the suicidal tendencies that flow so naturally out of our disordered society. With the current nature of television shows, music, news, magazines, parties, politics, with the breakdown of the family through divorce and adultery, with mental anguish on a scale rarely seen, and with the constant advertisement of sickness, what do we expect? After children are taught en masse to ignore everything true about themselves and are asked to believe a pack of lies about themselves, the inevitable result is that they do not know what it is to be human or how they are to live. What are our children to do when they are separated from their true purposes? The real surprise is that more have not committed suicide.
What shocks me the most about all this madness is that the self-proclaimed experts are willing to do anything, anything at all to save these poor children from suicide except for what is needed. They will buy them vacations at self-esteem resorts, give them fake drugs, room, board, faux friends, secret sayings, pep talks, makeovers, massages, spa days, and condoms. But they will not tell them the truth. The single thing these kids really need they will not get: the truth. As a society we traded our final cause, our purpose, our telos, our truly human and fulfilling ends for a bucket of hubris, and the natural end is death.
What do all these children on the verge of suicide really need? They don’t need more people talking to them about killing themselves. They need loving families, moms and dads who are faithful, united, morally mature and nurturing. They need brothers and sisters. They need friends and the guidance and tools to cultivate the virtues. They need safe and healthy communities in which to practice the virtues and to cultivate friendships in the kind of fellowship that builds up civilizations. They need the truth about what it means to be a human being.
The increasing suicides in our bankrupt society are an incalculable loss to this generation. Our children are killing themselves at increasing rates, and I suspect the rates will go higher. It is not complicated to see that we have let our children down in nearly every way. The answer to suicide is not education. The answers cannot be found in the public schools or in the field of psychology. The answer is a return to virtue and to the morally ordered families that comprise the real building blocks of the well-ordered society. The good family, the domestic church, which is the first school, is the only entity capable of transmitting the culture that leads to life.
Books on the topic of this essay may be found at The Imaginative Conservative Bookstore.