Death in Literature, Period 5
May 5, 2009, a 17 year-old male from Gunn High School jumps in front of the train during the morning commute. June 2, 2009, a 17 year-old girl from the same High School commits suicide. August 21, 2009, a 13 year-old just beginning her freshman year also takes her life. October 21, 2009, a 16 year-old Gunn student takes his life. Fall of 2011, a student from St Ignatius High School in San Francisco took his life. Why is there a sudden increase in teenage suicides? At first glance, most people assume that in the affluent Bay Area where teenagers seem to have all they need and more, teenage suicide would not be an issue worth exploring. But lurking beneath the surface is an ugly and troubling trend where teenagers are taking their lives at an alarming rate. Suicides amongst teenagers have certainly been occurring for as long as they have been keeping statistics, but in the last 3 years the Bay Area has seen teenage suicides rising at an unprecedented rate. So what is to blame for teenagers feeling that they have no hope or alternatives other than suicide? Research points to the fact that teenagers are growing up in a far different world than even kids from a decade ago. Teenagers today are facing numerous environmental, social, and financial obstacles that are pushing them to make the unthinkable choice of taking their own lives. The overall environment that teenagers are growing up in today has changed dramatically in recent years. One change that has occurred is in respect to the overall acceptance of one’s sexual orientation. Most High Schools today have either informal or formal support groups for gay teenagers. Every T.V show aimed at the teenage audience either has gay characters or plots that freely discuss the conflicts that come from being gay. These factors are giving gay teenagers an outlet to feel comfortable to express their sexual orientation and “come out of the closet”. I have a neighbor in her 30’s who is gay and she told me that she didn’t “come out of the closet” until early 20’s because there were no support groups or forum that she felt would have supported her. She went on to explain to me that while she is happy that gay teenagers today have more acceptance level than she did, but also has some concerns. “While there are many people who are accepting of the gay community, there are just as many that don’t and it takes a high level of maturity in order to handle these conflicts and I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have handled them very well as a teenager”. Hatzenbuehler conducted a study, reviewing different statistics on suicides comparing the differences between heterosexuals and homosexuals. “The study found that lesbian/gay/bisexual youth were five times more likely to have attempted suicide in the last 12 months than heterosexual youth. Nearly 20% of the lesbian and gay youth had attempted suicide, as had 22% of bisexual youth, compared to only four percent of their heterosexual peers” (Hatzenbuehler). So the environment teenagers are growing up in today seems to support the gay community and encourages our teenagers to be themselves and true to their sexual orientation. But on the other hand, studies point to the gay, lesbian, and bisexual youth not being fully able to handle the conflicts that arise and resort to suicide. A good example of this mixed message our gay teenagers face in our own state. California is known for being liberal and accepting of gays. But look at the controversy of Proposition 8 which is trying to make gay marriage legal but can’t get passed in California. On the surface, it looks like California is the ideal environment, but if our own State will not accept the gay community, then what message does this send a 14 year old who has openly expressed his or her sexual orientation. “Strategic analysis of the student information and the environmental index led Hatzenbuehler to conclude that...
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