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Youths and suicide

The subject of suicide is not an easy subject to talk about. However it is probably a subject which everyone will face at some point in life. Maybe through a good friend, a school friend or acquaintance at work who throws themselves into death, or a previous acquaintance from a youth group, who had taken part in a camp with you, takes his own life. It is shocking how many young people, how many teenagers take their life but even more worrying how many play with the idea.

How could an evening on this theme be started? A suggestion, a few ideas and questions for introducing the theme to young people:

  • Start off the subject with a few short stories.

  • Collect a few experiences from your own life

  • To what extent are the motives comprehensible? Can the youths comprehend the theme and the deep despair lurking in some people?

  • How could we approach the subject with youths who have suicidal tendencies? Can we (you) be bothered? Or what would you do?

  • If you were in such a situation, how would you react (a very difficult and private question)?

  • Would there be some situations where you could not see a way out?

  • To what extent could your belief be a help? Demonstrate that there can by many problems in life, but there are none so bad that you should throw your life away. Demonstrate that a life with Jesus can make things easier- obviously not “worry-free” but different and not so difficult. "Throw all of your worries to him, because he cares for you!" ... This is easily said- but those who have learnt to trust in Jesus and search for new power within him, will experience this.

I prepared in the past a themed evening covering the difficult and complicated subject of suicide: Have you thought about it before? Suicide!

The following story is symptomatic. When there are current cases of suicide by youths there are always hidden clues or clues which point to the deed.

It is Christian’s birthday. The sweet smell of freshly baked cheese cake floats through the apartment; that is Christian’s favourite cake. A few hours later: Patiently at first, but getting heavier and heavier, his mother knocks on the bathroom door. "Open up, Christian", she keeps screaming: No answer. Eventually she runs up the stairs to the caretaker of the house. He breaks open the door, but it is too late: Christian is dead — the fourteen year old had hanged himself with a belt.

Within a few hours, the seemingly ideal world of this family, had fell apart. Over the next days, his parents kept asking themselves the question over and over again: "What on earth have we done wrong?" They searched through his note books and folders, listened to his tapes — everything to try and come across a clue with which they might find out "why he did that?"

More and more parents have to ask themselves this question. After traffic accidents, suicide is next most common cause of death among youths in Germany. In the last two centuries, the number of suicides by young people has tripled. More than 500 children and young people choose to end their life in Germany every year. Over 15 000 attempted suicides are prevented: Experts call this a high “dark figure”. Just like Christian, lots of young people could still be alive today if their environment, especially their parents, classmates or friends had reacted to the warning signals, which are present in almost every suicide case. There are hardly any youths who simply decide to kill themselves “over night”, totally expected and on impulse. Suicide is usually the last step on a path of disappointment, crises and conflicts they cannot cope with. You will surely never be able to decipher a suicide, but the reasons for Christian’s self-chosen death could also be tracked down. He was the result of a failed environment, which fences young people in, burdens them and eventually crushes them. .

Christian grew up in an orderly family. Three years ago, the family moved into this multi-storey house. Only Christian managed to find new contacts in this new area. His parents and two sisters lived relatively isolated from the world. Christian’s father had worked his way up into a good position although he started off as a normal worker. He is very ambitious and strict. He would like his son to have it easier than him one day. Therefore Christian goes to the grammar school where he does not manage the work load and has to change to a high school. In this school, he manages to become a good scholar but he does bring the odd “D” or “E” home, for which he quickly receives a scolding and hassle. Out of fear he often hides his bad marks. Order and discipline is of utmost importance to Christian’s parents. Christian’s bedroom was always so shipshape but he had never played in it – he told his friend Klaus.

Christian only built up his railway tracks very seldom. He told his friend the reason for this: the trains make to much mess on the carpet for his mother. Klaus: "He’s not allowed to do anything – nothing at all." Christian always faced bans, limits and restraints.

His mother worries about Christian ,,almost panicky." I was always scared that something would happen to him", she said. Christian therefore always has to be home very early each evening, and he submits. Christian did not manage to stand up to his parents very often, which would normal at his age and necessary for his development. Once he is out of the tight family circle, amongst his friends, Christian is like a different person. The usually sensitive boy, quickly becomes aggressive. He always wants to appear particularly confident and brave in front of his friends and always plays the “hero". Klaus: "I often had the feeling that he was playing with his life."

Christian once balanced his way across the narrow bars of a high bridge, another time, he stuck a needle into his neck next to the vein. He boasts in front of his friends: "I am never scared." His over-exaggerated aggression, the way he played with his life — those were clear warning signals that Christian could no longer deal with the world he was living in and that he was mentally ill. There are however other pointers. His mother remembered that he had often asked his father: "Dad, what is it like to die?" but his parents did not pay any particular attention. They didn’t even wake up when Christian — a few weeks before the suicide — placed the bathrobe cord around his neck and pulled until he could not see. The warning signs could not be more clear or alarming! What was his parent’s reaction to his "cry for help"? Instead of taking Christian to a doctor, or even better, psychological therapy, to finally talk with their son about his problems, to give him particular love and tenderness and point him in the right direction. Christian told his friends later that his mother had simply said: "So that you don’t get into anymore stupidity, we’ll have to get stricter." We don’t need any great level of imagination to understand how Christian felt. At this point at the latest, he must have felt completely alone, without any more trust towards his parents and without a way out of the difficulties within the family. Now only a small occurrence was enough, 'to trigger off what Christian obviously saw to be the only solution to his problems: suicide. It seems that this little occurrence was an “E” in Geography, which he brought home on that Friday, his birthday, in his half-term report. His class teacher said later: "I did not notice that it was such a shock for him." However how terrible this “E” was, no-one really knows. It was definite that Christian, before he killed himself, had tried to find help two more times. He had told his 14 year old girlfriend, Karin — a little blurred – he wanted to go away and not come back to school on Monday. She found this a little strange but did not question any further. "He spoke so chaotically", she said later. Christian also said to his sister, quite overtly: "I will kill myself. You’ll see”. Maybe he secretly hoped that his sister would run to his mother and tell her about his threat and that his mother would save him and everything would be OK. However the two girls do not take Christian’s last despairing warning seriously and do not deal with it. He goes into the bathroom and shuts the door behind him ...

Using the examples of famous pop stars, you can go deeper into this subject. In the past, and also present times, there are many examples of pop stars who have taken their lives. Despite money, success, (seemingly) lots of friends, super parties, and luxury etc. could not expel the inner loneliness, the inner despair, emptiness and the search for life.

  • In January 1978, the guitarist of “Chicago”, Terry Kath, took his own life with a shot to the head while playing Russian roulette.

  • Otis Redding, Jim Croce, Marc Bolan and lots of others died in traffic accidents.

  • Elvis Presley died on the 16. August 1977.

  • "Take as much as you can for as long as you can. Live intensively, love heavily, die young", were key texts of Janis Joplin. During production of her LP "Pearls", she was found dead in a Los Angeles motel room on the 4th October 1970. She had died of heroin poisoning.

  • Jimi Hendrix choked on his own vomit due to barbiturate poisoning.

  • Keith Moon (pop group “The Who”) died of an overdose of narcotics.

  • Kurt Cobain (Nirvana) committed suicide in April 1994

  • Rozz Williams, the former Christian Death Singer hanged himself in his flat in West Hollywood in 1998. He was 34 years old. He made his first recordings with Christian Death as he was a teenager. He could never get rid of the dark wave/gothic-image, despite trying.

  • There are many other examples: (Kevin Wilkinson, Brian O'Hara, Screaming Lord Sutch, William Tucker, Adrian Borland, Wendy O'Williams, Rozz Williams, Michael Hutchence)

The following questions can be posed:

  • What might have been the reasons for suicide?

  • What role did music play? Was it a type of valve, an escape from a world of "recognition, money and “being on top"?

  • Was it a search for freedom?

  • What are our dreams? Would you also like to be famous? Have lots of money? A famous pop star, artist. Footballer, successful manager etc.? What are your dreams? What will happen once you have achieved this? What will happen next?

Somebody once said: "I planned my life perfectly. I wrote everything in a small black book. Once I had everything that I had planned, I realised I had nothing." Lots of people are in a similar situation. Dreams which are not fulfilled, or if the aims of all dreams have been achieved, people feel empty. Some people cannot take this and long for more. For love? For security? For something meaningful? If someone does not find or receive what he was looking for, they might not be able to see any other way.

To what extent can you give direction to the youths lives?

To what extent can you be a Samaritan if needs be?

To what extent do you reckon with Jesus?

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