Men and boys are 80% of suicides overall. Suicide spikes in the high school/early college years, when young men commit suicide at six times the rate of women. According to the American Association of Suicidology, suicide rates have quadrupled for young men ages 15-24 over the past 60 years.
This is a widespread problem that deserves a national conversation from a perspective of compassion and understanding toward men and boys. As usual, the mainstream media has other plans. This article from the Associated Press tells us this story:
A 16-year-old boy was critically injured Monday after setting himself on fire in the cafeteria at a suburban Denver high school in an apparent suicide attempt, authorities said.
Westminster Police Department spokeswoman Cheri Spottke said the boy didn’t make any threats before starting the fire at about 7:15 a.m. at Standley Lake High School.
“There is no indication there were any threats to any schools,” she said.
Interestingly, the prospect of threats to the school appears to be the first concern. This is a sign of the times. Far more students die every year to suicide than to school shootings. In fact, suicides among 15-24 year-olds (overwhelmingly boys) annually account for 20% of all deaths in the U.S. combined.
The article continues:
Spottke said a custodian was able to use a fire extinguisher to put out the blaze before it could spread. Several other students were in the cafeteria at the time, but none were injured.
She didn’t know how the student set the fire, which caused extensive smoke in the building.
Jefferson County Public Schools spokeswoman Lynn Setzer said the school was closed for the day and students were sent home. She said she didn’t know if students were in class when the fire was reported.
Setzer said students without cars were taken by buses to a local middle school, where they were picked up by their parents. Security vehicles and police cruisers blocked the entrance to the school as light snow fell on a frigid morning.
Monday’s incident was the latest to affect a Denver-area school in recent weeks.
On Thursday, Columbine High School, where two gunmen killed 13 people in 1999, went on high security alert after receiving a series of threatening phone calls. The alert applied to a half-dozen other schools in the area, in the same school district as Standley Lake, but was lifted the same day.
And there is the political and social context behind which this suicide is framed: the Columbine high school massacre, which occurred 15 years ago. Everyone had their theories about why the kids shot up the school: violent video games, parental disengagement, demons, and so forth. Those whose theories consisted of widespread depression among boys were generally marginalized from the conversation.
On Dec. 13, student gunman Karl Pierson, 17, fatally shot Claire Davis, a 17-year-old classmate at Arapahoe High School in Centennial before killing himself in the school’s library. Pierson reportedly had threatened a teacher and librarian who had disciplined him last year and allegedly was seeking that teacher when he entered the school, investigators have said.
I can’t help but wonder: when was the last suicide among students in Denver? Does the Associated Press have anything to report on that? I mean, the article is about an attempted suicide. The student set himself on fire. Not other people. Nor did he even threaten other people.
When do we discuss the possibility that young men are experiencing an acute amount of unaddressed isolation and pain?
Colorado state lawmakers are considering a bill to spend about $250,000 to continue a hotline students and teachers can use to report threats and bullying anonymously. State officials say the hotline has prevented more than two dozen school attacks since its creation in 2004.
Sounds like we’re getting closer to addressing the problem. But not quite there yet.
Westminster was home to 10-year-old Jessica Ridgeway, who was abducted on her way to school and killed in 2012. Austin Sigg, who was 17 at the time of the crime, was sentenced to a life sentence plus 86 years. Jessica’s disappearance put Westminster and neighboring Denver suburbs on edge as police, aided by an army of volunteers, searched for her and then her killer.
And that’s how the article ends.
Actually, it isn’t. This is immediately below the last paragraph:
No, that’s not related. The article was about suicide, not “bad things men do.” That’s as “related” as the Associated Press linking an article about burn bans in various Colorado cities.
School violence is an important issue, but why does the majority of the interpretation and reporting have to focus on the bad things some men do? Can’t we use this opportunity to address a national problem of suicide, an epidemic which kills far more people – students included – each year?
Just look at the article. Only one sentence (the first one) actually talks about this student’s pain, while paragraph after paragraph talk about school violence and the prospect of student who actually tried to kill himself “making threats” to others.
Let’s put it this way: if women and girls were 80% of suicides each year, the Associated Press would not use a girl’s suicide attempt – especially one that is done in such a symbolic manner as self-immolation – as an opportunity to go on and on about the bad things some women do. It just wouldn’t happen.
Like I said, it is a sign of the times.
I haven’t said this enough, but this is what I think: the solution to men’s issues is not so much the absence of misandry (although that is necessary as well), but more importantly the presence of compassion. That’s the kind of perspective we need to be bringing to conversations like these.
If you’ll forgive the rather cliched question, I can’t help but ask – where is the love?
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