After obtaining  a Minister for Loneliness, we now have a  Minister for Suicide Prevention – we are the first country to do so.  I wonder if the two are connected? Whatever your first thoughts, how sad that they are needed!

Loneliness and suicide are most common in young people. In times when we are more affluent, not at war, not in a depression, have high employment and society is kinder in many ways than ever before, it seems even stranger! We are also more linked through social media.  Why would young people, with their whole lives ahead of them, so much freedom to live any way they choose, be increasingly inclined to suicide? Overall suicide rates are falling, but are rising for the young. An awful paradox.

Suicide has always been here.  We’ve always had depression, poverty, job losses, bankruptcy, divorce,  repossessions, inconsolable grief and other desperate situations that make people feel there is no other way out. But why are the young, who may not have experienced any of these, feeling this way?

The PM has announced mental health checks for all pupils,  so perhaps they feel it starts at a very young age.. Teachers are to be trained  to spot mental health issues in children from age four,  as these problems are six times higher than 20 years ago… Self-harming is reported in one fifth of girls under 14…..! .

Sadly, there are about 4,500 suicides in England each year and suicide is the main cause of death for males under 45.  A tragic waste.

Why is this is happening to young people in particular? When I look around I see insecure young girls  having ‘boob jobs’ as if it’s necessary…  So many are either very overweight or far too skinny, is no one just slim any more? They all have bleached teeth – no one has creamy yellow teeth these days! Grown adults walk around with teeth braces.  Girls – and boys – as young as 18 are having Botox (probably even younger really) and it is booming amongst millennials – some being hooked on it.  What wrinkles does a teenager have? None! It’s a charlatans playground!

We don’t yet know the long term effects of any of this. Trout pouts, liposuction, bum lifts, waist sculpting are all becoming mainstream and if they don’t succumb to at least some of it I guess they feel they don’t fit in.  TV shows of young people  obsessed with altering their appearance probably don’t help. It’s as if nothing else matters other than what you look like. When I was growing up I loved being ‘individual’ and thrived on expressing myself by looking as different as possible, but there doesn’t seem to be any room for this. Suicide rates are now higher among young girls than boys…

Without belittling the issue in anyway, it is OK to be down or sad sometimes, it’s part of life and we should recognise that, but now there is so much pressure to be happy and have the perfect life. Everything we eat drink and do must be photographed, edited and shown online. We must have a perfect body and hair, all photos must have filters, we must be on flash holidays drinking champagne, wearing designer clothes and  name drop often. ‘Judged by image’… ‘Being famous’ is a career choice. Perhaps perfectly nice young people are feeling life is pointless..and shallow.

As for young men, they live in the gym, body building, guzzling protein drinks, tubs of peanut butter, steroids and fat burning drugs, all in the quest of the perfect physique – which seems to be a huge upper body and tiny legs, but without the ability to fix a tap or open  a jar..!   They calorie count and shop for clothes along with girls…men are, after all, no longer irreplaceable as fathers and husbands are they?  And as the false cries of rape increase daily, many young men must fight their natural instinct to ‘pursue’ the girl of their dreams – instead sitting statically wondering what on earth its all about. I know I’m exaggerating – not ALL young people of course, but enough to increase suicide rates…!

Add to this the pressure from a young age to pass exams, get results, get to university (what for? I don’t know!), accumulate huge debt and start competing on holidays/clothes/friends/drinking/drugs you name it….and life must seem like a huge race that never ends… No wonder there are spates of suicides of seemingly successful and intelligent young people…  often coming thick and fast, one after the other….

And if you don’t have the perfect job or money for all this? Or friends? Then you are lost. Resigned to looking at other people’s fabulous Facebook and instagram accounts… instead of maybe building a different sort of life, or you may end up in a gang and ruining your life.

I have driven along cliff top roads, seen Samaritan signs with their phone number, or a chaplain’s van, and realised how many must take their lives up there. Even in my darkest times, I was aware that anything I did would impact heavily on those I love…perhaps many no longer feel ‘connected’ to others? Perhaps being farmed out to nurseries, au pairs, nannies, and after school clubs  makes you form an identity based on what others think of you instead of from your family and its history.

Certainly many no longer know the history of our country and feel no pride in it, which has been shown to make people feel lost…. (Do we also now need to add to this by suggesting to tiny children they should not choose a gender….?)

The ability to walk out into the world, knowing who we are and where we come from, regardless of what life throws at us, has been well and truly lost for the young, and the journey to get it back will be long, uphill and rocky. But at least we have made a start, I hope…

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