Teen suicide and a father’s shock

I have a small family. I am part of a small family too ! Only one brother. My spouse has only one sister. Overall. two nephews and two nieces.

Typical small family.

When the kids were younger and still living under our roof, we used to have dinner altogether. Every night. Most breakfasts were partial as we each had different work or school schedule. But we connected daily at least once.

We usually had the typical conversation. How was your day at school/at work. Some of us used to be more talkative but I believe we each had our fair share of attention depending of what happened during the day. We also had typical conversation about world news or what we read on the Web, etc.

Typical family conversation.

Or so I thought.

I was told repeatedly by our sons that a lot of their friends did not eat with the rest of the family, spending time in front of their own TV set or computer in their room. I was shocked !

But then who am I to think I understood life and the world ?

Last week one of my two nephews had a traumatic experience. One of his good friends in high school committed suicide. Broken-hearted apparently. The cause does not matter. He died. 14 years old.

Teen suicide is very real.

Below is something I found on a very serious Web site  www.statista.com.

The data is 4 years old. I believe things are not improving.

Statistic: Percentage of U.S. high school students who have seriously considered attempting suicide as of 2011, by gender and ethnicity | Statista

Some more data is available here.


One in six students in the US has had SERIOUS thoughts about committing suicide.

SERIOUS thought.

How can a teenage in the richest country in the world, the land of opportunity of all lands, thinks about ending his/her life ?

And here is the shock : when I asked a question similar to this around dinner last week after we heard about my nephew’s friend’s suicide both my sons replied : “No surprised. So did I ! “

So did they ?!?!?

For one of the rare times in my life, I was speechless. And believe me, this is a rare event indeed.

How could my spouse and I miss this ?

What did we do wrong ?

How could we not be more supportive ?

What did we do wrong ?

I kept on listening. What else could I do….

“My teenage years were the worst of my life. “

“Life really sucked. “

“Peer pressure, bullying …. “

All this from two kids going to private school. In a home full of books. From two well-educated parents having good jobs with very decent salaries. Two TV sets in the house, video-game console, three computers, in the suburb with no history of violence….

What did we do wrong ?

I kept on listening.

“As a teenager, my friends were my family”.

Aha… bad relationships then ?

Not really, according to them.

Suicide is apparently the third cause of death in teenagers in the US.


Suicide has apparently increased worldwide by 60 % in the last half century.

We kept on listening….

“No hope. Everything we listened to or watched on the Web was depressing. No bright future for us !”

Aha… as we kept on listening and asking some probing questions gently, I started to see a trend.

I am no futurist. I am not anthropologist. I merely try to connect the dots.


Group rape.

Religious murder.

Sex tourism.



The plagues of the world seem to jump at us wherever we watch the news or read the Web.

Every plague that was taboo. That we did not dare mention in civilized society.

I believe nothing really changed in the last five millennia as far as human behaviour is concerned.

Nothing changed except that the Web, smartphone and microblogging happened. Information is now available…. Everywhere, all the time on any topic.

The fear of talking or sharing information is decreasing.

  • Big brother is turning around…. whereas your seemingly private information used to belong to big corporations and governments, THEIR information is now being wikileaked thought the networks.
  • Religion is not as pure as it once was. Religious leaders are becoming more human everyday… with very human failings..
  • Corporate and political leaders are not shielded as they used to be and their closets are now releasing their skeletons…
  • Fathers and mothers as child molesters now become visible and their behaviours punishable.

Very depressing pieces of information for us and our kids !

I am no shrink but I believe the taboos protected children up to a point.

I strongly believe in free thinking.

I am strongly opposed to corporate or government “secrets”.

But I am also convinced that we need to filter information now available to our children.

Kids do not have filters. Not enough life experience, as good or bad as it can be.

The discussion with my two sons proved this to be right. They literally told me so.

Although we had those daily dinner together, it was not enough. As parents, we were not sensitized enough to talk about this.

Moreover, most adults do not have filters anymore either.

The abundance of information now available to anyone is staggering.

Go to Youtube and ask for a “documentary” on any topic any conspiration you can think of and bang…voilà! “documented proof” that it is real!

Big media used to control information. We know for a fact that their filters were questionable.

These days, ANYBODY can be a amateur reporter able to document “facts”… this is a different kind of filter.

Maybe not as educated a filter as what we used to get.

Maybe not as good… maybe not bad either.

We are not well protected against false interpretation of reality.

Our kids are not well protected either.

We need thought leaders to help us interpret reality in a way that makes sense.

Our kids need this even more.

I am not an anthropologist. I have a very limited knowledge of psychology.

I am not a futurist or a prophet but I strongly believe, very strongly believe that information is not the problem. It is merely the beginning of a new way to communicate.

I am and will always be a father, however.

As a parent, I now see that the link between me and my kids has embraced a new and wider scope. Our limited view of the family must now encompass the networked universe.

Our kids are way smarter than we were, having access to the rest of the world via their smartphone and computers.

But they are still kids and need help to build their own value system, their own filter to function adequately.

I was shocked to hear that my two sons contemplated suicide. I had never even thought of this as a teenager.  Times were maybe simpler.

Once the shock subsided, I was relieved and to the brink of tears.

After all, they were both alive to tell us about it.

But I was still stunned about the whole thing. Whatever the cause, bullying, unfiltered information, peer pressure…. whatever the cause.

We will not save all of the 15 % of kids seriously considering suicide.

We need only to save our own kids.

We seriously need to talk.

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