Opinion: Unintended consequences

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This week past, another young, physically healthy person died by suicide. What happened? How could this be? The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said it may be safe to go outside again. Indications are that consumer spending is up. Isn’t that a sign of high confidence? Shouldn’t we all be celebrating in the streets?

The CDC reported last month that teen suicide in 2020 was up 31 percent from 2019, and survived attempts, especially among young girls, was up more than 50 percent. Is it possible that the lockdowns, designed to protect our older and vulnerable, led to far greater risk for our younger and vulnerable? Are we trapped in a mire of unintended consequences? 

Are the mental health impacts of COVID-19 restrictions and the ongoing disparagement of institutions real? It is tough to know where to turn for respite. Social media, countless outlets of political drivel, being taught/expected to not believe one’s own perceptions of reality regarding political leadership, law enforcement, race, family, religion, community, gender, and disease … it is enough to encourage one to hide in a bunker and withdraw even if our cities burn. For those without the mental stability or brain maturity to make sense of this Gordian knot, it can easily be overwhelming. 

Commonly understood, suicide leaves behind bewildered, frustrated and, often, friends and family trapped in some self- or community-directed guilt. “What more should you have done?” Like a rowboat in a whirlpool, the death spiral only leads to more death. Still, isn’t there something more than this place and time? To believe in ourselves, do we have to forsake a higher power? It is not hopeless. We are not alone. 


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