The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) released staggering suicide facts last week. In all but one state (Nevada which saw a 1% drop in suicide rates), the overall rate increased across the board since 1999 with over half of the states seeing an increase of 30 percent or more. Furthermore, over half (54 percent) of those deaths had no reported “mental health conditions.” They had, however, recently experienced relationship problems (42 percent); a crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks (29 percent); substance abuse issues (28 percent); a physical health problem (22 percent); a job/financial problem (16 percent); a criminal/legal problem (9 percent); or a loss of housing (4 percent).
Several months ago, I received a very interesting phone call. The woman on the other end of the line introduced herself as a psychiatrist who had dined with my youngest daughter the previous evening. Along with a panel of professional leaders and other psychiatrists, this woman had been tasked with evaluating a severe productivity failure in a workforce of over 70,000. The members of the task force had met on numerous occasions to discuss, organize, and compile their findings. They would be presenting their final report that very afternoon.
She explained that the day prior, she had received a call from the presiding authority over this workforce. He asked her to meet and interview my daughter. She followed through with the request and exclaimed that she, as well as the other members of the task force, now found themselves in a state of uncertainty.
Over the past year, each member of the task force had traveled the globe, surveying, interviewing, and analyzing a large sampling of workers to identify their weaknesses and compile a workable plan to restore productivity levels. She expounded that their conclusions were relative to millennial preferences and needs.
She requested a few moments of my time to investigate my daughter’s history, her personality, her accomplishments, disappointments, education, family dynamic, etc. I agreed and the interview began.
During our conversation, she stated that the employer had cut training hours from four to three weeks, the workers suffered performance anxiety, separation anxiety (from their devices), were required to utilize and work through social media, were unable to focus on tasks, delved into pornography and fraternization during work hours, and battled perfectionism. The task force’s suggestions for remedies were to increase training, introduce problem-solving skills, and allow each worker his/her personal devices.
The psychiatrist’s dinner with my daughter unsubstantiated their findings because although she is a member of this workforce and a millennial, she is self-motivated, organized, confident, able to analyze failure and restructure methods for success, manages her time effectively, excels in her work, and is responsible. The panel was perplexed.
The psychiatrist wanted to know what had made my daughter different. The answer is that she was never given a trophy nor received praise for something she did not accomplish or deserve; she was never shielded from the realities of life while growing up, and she was responsible for her assigned tasks knowing that if she failed, the consequences were hers.
I am sure that problem-solving and coping is very complicated for the mentally ill and thereby makes suicide a very real and dangerous threat. The CDC however, has plainly stated that over half the suicides in America (54 percent) are not illness related; rather, they are issue related. If over half of the suicides are issue related our society is suffering from a lack of problem-solving and/or coping skills.
Shielding your child from pain, disappointment, and responsibility does not make him/her a functioning adult. The baby steps of pain and disappointment toward adulthood strengthen our children and prepare them for the internal battles of emotional nightmares, excruciating betrayals, bigotry, unfair disappointments, and everything else that will hit them in life. Without these skill-building experiences as children, your adult child will be unable to cope and recover from the realities of life.
As a mortician who sees the sad reality of suicide upon her embalming table far too often, I plead with you to stop this insanity of shielding children when they should be developing life coping and life-sustaining skills. Allow them to learn good sportsmanship, the joy that comes from sacrifice and service, and the exhilaration that replaces disappointment after a skill has been mastered. In so doing, it is my fervent prayer that your child will not be the next suicide victim lying on an embalming table somewhere in America because he/she recently experienced relationship problems (42 percent); a crisis in the past or upcoming two weeks (29 percent); substance abuse issues (28 percent); a physical health problem (22 percent); a job/financial problem (16 percent); a criminal/legal problem (9 percent); or a loss of housing (4 percent).
Instead, prepare your child to be a well-functioning adult able to handle disappointments and problem solve their way to recovery.