In this day and age, when trouble surfaces, there seems to be a routine response: Not my problem; there’s an expert for that. This mantra has become so normalized that most ordinary people have become callous to calls for help; so much so that perhaps they don’t even recognize that their own caring, conversation and understanding can save lives.

On Tuesday, June 18, JAMA: The Journal of the American Medical Association released a report about suicide in the U.S. and the results did not reflect positive outcomes from current suicide prevention programs:

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reported a 30 percent increase in suicides in the United States from 2000 to 2016, with rates increasing in all age groups. However, adolescents are of particular concern, with increases in social media use, anxiety, depression, and self-inflicted injuries.

In 2017, 6,241 suicides occurred in individuals aged 15 to 24 years, of which 5,016 were male and 1,225 were female.  … The suicide rate at ages 15 to 19 years and 20 to 24 years increased in 2017 to its highest point since 2000, with a recent increase especially in males and in ages 15 to 19 years. 

In the CNN story, “Suicide rates among America’s young people continue to soar, study shows,” June 18, Nadine Kaslow, chief psychologist at the Grady Health System in Atlanta, talks about the increase in the suicide rate.

Some reasons could be that family and community structures may not be as tight-knit as in the past, leading to increased risk, or that the increased use of technology has led to young people spending less time on cultivating rich, in-person relationships and more time being exposed to possible cyberbullying.

Now, the problem seems obvious: When our kids are rebelling, hostile and/or hurting, they are also reflecting their environment, according to plenty of studies on juvenile behavior. Understanding fully that there are hormonal shifts that can prompt all sorts of unusual responses, a desire and will to die shouldn’t be one of them. Yet, here we are.

With the news of the lowest national birth rates in 32 years, the opioid crisis hitting new highs with overdose deaths and the homeless count throughout the country on the rise, it’s not a wonder that the suicide rate continues to climb. The fact that we have been defaulting to government agencies and nonprofits as well as advocates, educated and/or experienced, for decades to solve these societal ills should be telling of their overall efficacy. Ongoing rising rates of unwanted behavior should be considered a failure of the systems we have in place and there should be no acceptable justification.

The solution: We need to put politics and misunderstandings aside and find joy together. We need to listen, respect and appreciate one another, no matter the plight. We need to stop pursuing that which divides us and places us in tribes, one pitted against each other, and put on those worn-out shoes of others who feel suicide is the best option. From that point, perhaps, hopefully, we can stop defaulting to the experts and just show limitless compassion and see what happens. True charity should not be stifled with expectations or disappointments. And really, what do we have to lose by choosing compassion always? If we want positive outcomes, the answer lies within each of us.