In a recent column about a UC Davis freshman who shot himself, I included a statistic from the national Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Boys commit 86 percent of all adolescent suicides.
The number floored me, particularly as the mother of a son. Yet not a single e-mail, phone call or letter about the column mentioned the striking statistic.
It occurred to me that if 86 percent of adolescent suicides were girls, there would be a national commission to find out why. There'd be front-page stories and Oprah shows and nonprofit foundations throwing money at sociologists and psychologists to study female self-destruction. My feminist sisters and I would be asking, rightly, "What's wrong with a culture that drives girls, much more than boys, to take their own lives?"So why aren't we asking what's wrong with a culture that drives boys, much more than girls, to take their own lives?
She's right. Couple that with all the stories lately about how boys aren't doing as well in school as girls, and how women make up over 50% of all bachelor degrees awarded in the US, and you have to wonder why this seeming crisis is all but being ignored. We know it's happening, but nothing is being done.
What's the right answer here?
Update: Here's someone who's identified part of the problem, but I'm not sure his solution is the best one. Unfortunately, his solution (lawsuit) may be what's needed to jumpstart a serious discussion--at least in Massachusetts.
Update #2: I just couldn't believe that 86% figure quoted above so I emailed the author for a citation. Here it is; just scroll down to Youth.