Think about this. In June we heard that there was a rash of suicides by school age children in Woodstock, Ontario, following on the footsteps of horror stories about First Nations children taking their own lives. Statistics Canada figures show that suicide is the second-leading cause of death among young people aged 15 to 34 and rates among youth are unchanged, despite efforts by clinicians to provide more targeted support. Children as young as ten are experiencing depression and it is running in families. One of the teachers in Woodstock estimated “40 students have come to her to say they’re struggling or are contemplating suicide.”
At the same time we are living in an age of unfettered abortion and have now legalized the right to end one’s life. Parliament has passed Bill C-14: Medical Assistance in Dying, that was thoroughly debated in the Senate as one member wanted to widen the scope and make it possible for people with “any serious medical condition, whether it be a soldier with PTSD, a young person with a spinal cord injury, or a survivor whose memory is haunted with memories of sexual abuse” to be eligible for a doctor-assisted death.
Are you following this? We are fighting to keep our children from killing themselves: usually from depression; a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, while we are fighting for the right for people with depression; a sense of helplessness and hopelessness, to be assisted in their suicide. We are teaching that life is not all that sacred or worth fighting for at both ends of the spectrum, yet we are wringing our hands when our young children commit suicide. Is it any wonder?
I would like to suggest that our children are having so much trouble dealing with life is that we have stopped them from living it-all of it-the joy and the sorrow. Our children fear life so much that they choose to end it. We have failed them. We are raising them as if they were endangered snowflakes-an expression I heard on television.
We have not given our children the tools to deal with failure. We have entered a time of Egalitarian Socialism. For reasons I will never understand, we will not let our children fail at school or in sports or relationships. We provide safe spaces for twenty-somethings because they cannot deal with hurt feelings.
We hand out awards for participation, eschewing awards for excellence-for winning! Play soccer? Great. But no team will win. We are teaching our children there is no difference between winning and losing-we are all winners. I suggest that not all who win are winners. And not all who lose are losers. We have stopped encouraging competition. We have made it unseemly.
When I was growing up and my feelings were hurt my mother would say to me “It’s the little hurts that prepare you for the big ones.” She would know. She and my father had buried their first child, Martin, when he died from croup at the age of two and a half.
I think we need to experience hurt, starting with a scraped knee, maybe a broken arm from some failed attempt at mountain biking, or a bruise playing dodge ball or Red Rover. Not the end of the world. But you will learn to protect yourself. You will learn to toughen up. You will learn which games to play and when to walk away.
And we need to let our children get their feelings hurt; like a broken heart at six when a “best friend” turns to some other new best friend. And yes, bullying exists-in childhood and throughout your entire life. Being bullied is not an automatic trip to suicide. I think these experiences help us develop emotional “muscle memory” similar to the muscle memory we develop over time to ride a bike, catch a ball, play golf without thinking about it. Practice makes perfect.
We belittle brilliance as well. Report cards are full of bafflegab describing our childrens’ accomplishments. How about an A or an F? What about acknowledging the hard work of those who get great marks? If we don’t encourage competition in school, how will our children compete in a global world? When did competition and winning become a four-letter word?
Seventy percent of mental health issues emerge during adolescence. Our children often wait nine to twelve months for help. There is a dearth of services, especially here in Ontario. We are always short on funds for health care. The Comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy that was released in 2015 recommends the government invest $30 million into the system immediately to bring down wait times, as well as create a provincial body tasked with clarifying roles and responsibilities across sectors and improving coordination and consistency. That financial infusion could reduce wait time to three to four months! That’s considered good health care? More money can lead to better outcomes but the Liberal government in Ontario has decided to spend $50 million a year providing one cycle of In Vitro Fertilization to about 4,000 women annually, regardless of sexual and gender orientation or family status.