Readers offer their analysis of why they are despondent and how best to help them.
Credit...Damon Winter/The New York Times
To the Editor:
Re “Why Are Young Americans Killing Themselves?,” by Richard A. Friedman (Op-Ed, nytimes.com, Jan. 6):
While I appreciate Dr. Friedman’s effort to call attention to the epidemic of suicide among young people in this country, I can’t help but be frustrated by the simplicity of his plan to address it. First, and perhaps most challenging, we need to address some of the underlying causes: a profoundly broken economy that robs young people of opportunities for a healthy and productive life, a constant news cycle full of dire predictions, and, of course, access to lethal means like guns.
But second, Dr. Friedman’s assertion that a visit to a family physician or therapist and medication are the first steps to treatment ignores the fact that we face a dire shortage of medical professionals, especially psychiatrists like Dr. Friedman himself, who can properly prescribe medication and provide accompanying therapy — the combination proven most effective in treating both depression and anxiety.
“What are we waiting for?” Dr. Friedman asks. Probably a callback from the one psychiatrist within hundreds of miles who is taking new patients.
Lee Burdette Williams
South Burlington, Vt.
The writer is senior director for mental health initiatives at NASPA: Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
To the Editor:
It seems extraordinary that in a time of relentless school shootings and obvious evidence of climate change that the depression of teenagers is attributed to media and drugs rather than the failure of politicians to care about America’s children and their future.
To the Editor:
Richard A. Friedman calls attention to the very disturbing problem of significant increases in youth suicide and depression. His solution — depression screening and better access to pharmacotherapy and psychotherapy — is a good start. However, it does not address the causes of young people’s depression and despair: the isolation, cyber-preoccupation and bullying he mentions, and the feelings of inadequacy and uncertainty that fuel and compound them.
What is needed are school programs that teach self-awareness and self-care and offer group support, for teachers and parents as well as all students — programs that create a communitywide culture of wellness.
Teaching kids to use meditation techniques to reduce their stress and teaching them ways to express their feelings and thoughts in words, drawings and movement will give them greater understanding of, and control over, disturbing emotions.
These approaches improve mood, sleep and focus, decrease anxiety, and make kids feel more competent and hopeful. When they share their challenges and their successes in safe, supportive groups, they overcome the terrible loneliness that contributes so significantly to depression.
James S. Gordon
The writer, a psychiatrist, is the author of “The Transformation: Discovering Wholeness and Healing After Trauma.”
To the Editor:
A 2019 University of Michigan study showed that previously suicidal teens were more likely to be alive 11 to 14 years later if the adults caring for them received education about depression and suicide. Parents are the most likely to recognize that their teen is depressed, most motivated to act and most able to harness resources to help their teen get well.
Too many parents feel immobilized because they don’t know how to talk to their teen or find treatment and services. Something as accessible as a webinar or workshop on teen depression can get parents on the right track to supporting their teen.
While social stigma and a shortage of mental health professionals for adolescents are potential barriers, having a parent to advocate for their care and provide emotional support can mean the difference between life and death for a teen.
The writers are co-executive directors of Families for Depression Awareness.
[If you are having thoughts of suicide, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 (TALK) or go to SpeakingOfSuicide.com/resources for a list of additional resources.]
A version of this article appears in print on , Section A, Page 26 of the New York edition with the headline: A Soaring Rate of Suicides by the Young.