Posted by: minnow | February 26, 2008


Last Friday a senior at my son’s high school committed suicide.  She had been a talented athlete–a basketball guard, a softball pitcher, and javelin thrower.  She was an accomplished student as well, having recently been awarded a full ride scholarship to the university in our town.  Friends and family described her as a fierce competitor, a good role model, and a best friend with a bright smile.  She was popular.  She was attractive.  She was a leader.  And, she was pregnant. 

Rather than “ruin her life forever” she cut it short.  Rather than live with the idea of “being a disappointment” she chose to die.  Rather than postpone her dreams of playing college basketball for a year so she could give her baby life and then get on with hers she took both their lives.  Rather than deal with the guilt of an abortion, or the shame of an unwanted pregnancy or the delay of her goals she gave up on them.

I could take this post in several directions.  Many thoughts are storming around in my brain right now.  For instance, I would like to tell this young lady how completely self-centered she has been.  But, it is a little late for that now.  I would like to tell her family and friends that her death is not their fault but they probably would not believe me.  I would like to use her story in every sex education class across American as an example of why kids should stop having sex, should wait until they get married, should at the very least use protection.  But, most would probably still not listen.  If they are not afraid of the statistics already ( 90% chance of becoming pregnant within a year if no contraceptive is used, 9.1 million new STD cases annually, 750 thousand unwanted pregnancies for girls 15-19 years old, over 214 thousand abortions annually in the same age group), they are not going to become afraid because of a silly example.  And, it is silly to them because they are invincible.  “Those things only happen to other people: minorities, or poor people, or non-Christians, or…not to me.”  They should not be happening to anyone and yet they are.  And, one young lady killed herself because she could not figure out any other way to deal with the guilt and the pain and the confusion.

What messages are we telling our young people these days?  How could this girl with so much going for her come to the conclusion that her life was over or was not worth living?  What are we telling the youth of today that would cause them to think ending their lives is a better option than living with the consequences of their mistakes? What expectationcould no longer be reached that would make death more attractive then living with the disappointment of not having met the objective?  Do our children know they are loved?  Do they?  Do they really know how valuable they are?  I seriously doubt it.  Otherwise, fewer of them (than the 10 per 100 thousand people under the age of 24 who commit suicide) would be making the choice this young woman made.  And, fewer of them would be throwing away their potential with drugs and alcohol or endangering their lives with casual sex and violence. 

Let me be clear–I do not blame this girl’s family for her death.  If anything they are the more tragic victims for they have to live with her decision.  Whatever caused this young woman to quit on life is big enough that we all need to take a part of the responsibility.  For if we don’t, if we keep passing the buck more young people are going to die.



  1. That’s desperately sad and you ask a lot of hard questions. In the UK I suspect we see fewer such suicides but they’re not entirely uncommon. That said, a number have made the news recently, notable, I think, because of their close proximity in area ant time. I suspect the sexual health statistics are comparable as well.
    Do you think it’s a cultural phenomena or is that an easy opt-out answer? The caricature the US has in the UK is a place of ‘achievement’, ‘status’, ‘perception’, ‘power/control’ and, no doubt, some others thrown in for good measure. Is there a sense of truth in that? Does society place more emphasis on what we achieve rather than simply who we are?
    I’ve done a fair amount of youthwork over the years and the biggest impact you can make, I find, is simply being there, spending time and showing an interest. I have two daughters and I often feel like a taxi driver taking them to one social activity or sports event or concert or whatever to another. We fill their lives with activity yet spend limited time just talking and being together. Evening mealtimes in our house are always ‘sit down together’ affairs. It’s one of the few times we can be together as a family and talk about things. But even times like this are under threat as more and more ‘activity’ fills the calendar.
    Hmmm… few suggestions and lots more questions I’m afraid, but it’s not an easy subject.

  2. JohnO–
    Thank you for the thoughtful response.
    Here at least for this young lady I got the sense she felt she had to be perfect. I hope I’m not communicating that to my own children. Sounds like you have more connection time then you think. But I know what you’re saying about wanting more.

  3. An all-too familiar story in this mountain town that I share with MinnowSpeaks. My step-daughter attends the same school she writes of. Sadly, the day after their classmate’s death, my step-daughter’s friends informed her about the “routine” they would face coming to school the next Monday. They’ll have to attend grief counseling. Teachers will underscore the importance of seeking help, as suicides often come in patterns of 2 or 3 at a time. Administrators will go away feeling like they reacted as best they could, but still raw from the unrequited nagging that, for this girl, all their past efforts were not enough.

    Thank you, Minnowspeaks, for bringing to light a relevant matter of the heart and a desert ground thirsty for the water of true compassion.

    My dream: that religious organizations would reroute the millions of dollars spent on fighting abortion each year and create a refuge in every state, much like spas where pregnant teens can soak in love, exfolliate the shame, and replenish their soul with hope. I wonder how much money and gumpsion that would take.


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