Teen Suicide: The Epidemic of Stupidity

I just saw a news story with some horrifying stats.

Teen suicide is through the roof! Yikes.

Some scary thoughts:

–60% increase in suicide in 45 years

–Suicide is in the top three leading causes of death for people ages 15-44

–In 2005, more than 32,000 people committed suicide in the U.S. (there are 1 million suicides a year globally)

Now to these freakish like statistics I have to say: WHAT THE FUCK?

I don’t want anyone to look at the title of this entry and think that I am in any way diminishing the seriousness of depression.

Trust me–I understand depression. I spent way too much of my life suffering from depression without understanding what it was. But I also know that suicide is an act of selfishness and stupidity.

As an atheist, I believe that this life is the only one I get. And even if I’m unsure (maybe there is a heaven or hell) — I’m not going to take any chances.

And this is where I really do believe that religion is harmful.

(I’m sure there is a more recent study…but this is what I found) 77% percent of Americans identify themselves as Christian. That is Christianity alone. It does not include Judaism, Hinduism, Islam, Buddhism, or the various other religions which make up much smaller proportions of the United States.

That is 77% of people believing in Heaven and Hell. And while many people believe that taking your own life is a sin great enough to get you a one way ticket to hell, I am going to go out on a limb and say there must be some who are willing to take the risk (because it sure as hell cannot be that Atheists are the only people to commit suicide).

In fact, though I would imagine stats on religious affiliation of people who commit suicide would be incredibly hard if not impossible to find, I am willing to bet that the number of atheists who commit suicide would be very small. They don’t believe in the after life…they aren’t going to throw this one away.

But what Howard Ditkoff of SystemsThinker has pointed out to me in our here and there conversation about BPD and the word epidemic is that especially epidemics, but even the word contagion, can be applied to things that do not necessarily spread biologically. Ditkoff pointed to a book titled Emotional Contagion.

I think the combination of depression having the ability to become an emotional contagion, religion spreading the idea that there is an afterlife that is better than this one, and peer pressure making teens feel like suicide is a way to be noticed is what has our nation with thousands of teens killing themselves.

This goes way beyond people killing people.

This is rage, contagion, and hatred for yourself. You are your own disease.

This is why every day I become less and less of an atheist, and actually become anti-theist. I am not really content sitting by and saying “religion is okay for them as long as they don’t try to force it on me” — I am pissed. I am angry that the ideas religion puts into the minds of teenagers may eventually lead them to believe they will “be alright” in some other life, so it’s okay to end this one.

It’s stupidity, and yet…it’s not entirely their fault. Religious indoctrination has probably destroyed them.

Okay, wow. That was quite a rant, and I am sure I have pissed more than a few people off and maybe lost myself a couple of readers. But that’s how I feel about it.

I’m also posting this over at Homosecular Gaytheist so you if you want to follow the discussion, their may be more than one to follow.



  1. Katie,

    Here is what jumped out at me in this post

    “This goes way beyond people killing people. This is rage,
    contagion, and hatred for yourself. You are your own disease.”

    This is auto-cannibalism because we suffer
    and in turn, self-inflict. Here are some thoughts from
    The Turtle’s Voice — Victoria Hardy, a writer, artist and drummer attempting to make sense of the world.

    “I am coming to the conclusion that we do not all have the spark of light and for many who still do in these days of old, it is sputtering. This darkness is not a new thing on this earth, history and legends have always attempted to explain the lack and left us clues in scary stories of monsters, devils, aliens, zombies and vampires. But what has been lost in translation is that on the surface those monsters look just like us, the calculating beast resides deep below what we are able to see. And because our lack of knowledge has made us blind, we follow the boogey men and our spark begins to sputter and die.

    The psychopaths and monsters have taken over and they have convinced us that their way, full of lies and deceit, is the truth. And we believe because we can not imagine that some folks are completely empty inside. They keep us distracted with chores, sex, fancy gadgets and sooth us with convenient drugs. We quickly learn if we work very hard we can find God and our mansion, which can only be bought with lots of money. We spend hours watching their magical and hypnotic box as they instruct us in the way we should go. We hand them over our children, earlier and earlier, with each passing generation and then wonder why our children begin to grow to see us as the enemy. We, that carry the spark inside of us, are being conquered, divided, deceived and extinguished at an unbelievable rate.

    It seems we have come to believe that if it is not on television, then it is not the truth, as if those attempting to deceive us are going to tell us the truth. The television has been the evil-doers greatest success in molding a human, tearing down the moral fiber, dumbing down the population and creating a sense of apathy, fear, division and sedation among the people. Do we really believe that they, the ones without spark or flame, are going to inform us that our flame is in the process of being extinguished? How can we understand we are living in deception, yet accept that deception as truth?

    from Turtle’s Voice blog


  2. Its a bit absurd to blame suicide on religion. I would go as far to say that religion saves people from actually committing suicide because people of a religous nature have a hope in a higher power that pulls them through. In addition, there is a fear of hell that would prevent such silly notions of ending one’s life. I think that you dont lend enough credibility to these reasons as to why a teen would end his life. Moreover, teens, in general are completely clueless and sometimes dont realize the seriousness of their actions. These are high risk groups listed below.
    Adolescents who are or have been in youth detention centers or boot camps.
    Adolescents who are physically or mentally disabled.
    Adolescents who have a mental disorder, such as clinical depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, body dysmorphic disorder, social anxiety, or bipolar disorder. Over 90% of teen suicide victims have a mental disorder, depression, or a history of alcohol or drug abuse.
    Teenagers who have recently undergone a life-changing event, such as blindness, loss of limbs, deafness, or loss of a loved one.
    Teenagers of conduct disorder (a high level of aggressiveness).
    Teenagers who are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender.
    Students who have failed in school or exams.
    Minority indigenous adolescents, e.g. Native Americans, indigenous Australians.
    Teenagers who move towns, cities, or countries and are separated from people they were once close with.
    Teenagers from emotionally dysfunctional families, where they do not feel safe to talk about things or show their true feelings, and where they are regularly invalidated.
    Victims of bullying or domestic abuse.
    Children of divorced parents.
    Children with restrictive parents.

  3. So you don’t think that those 90% with mental disorders often don’t get the treatment they need for those disorders (which I admit wouldn’t help in ALL cases, but some) –but don’t get treatment because they believe religion can “pull them through”?

    You are correct in that I don’t lend any credibility for ANY reason for ending one’s life. There’s treatment, medication, therapy — there are ways of changing their situation, but they don’t know how. I can’t blame that entirely on religion, but yes, I do lay some of it there.

  4. I know very few christians that refuse medical care.

    In addition, the statistic you posted about 77% of Americans identifying themselves as christians, does not make them religous in nature. Its more of a social thing. In the south, everyone goes to church, but that doesnt mean they believe nor does it mean they have been truly transformed into the image of Christ.

  5. Hey,

    Late addition to the discussion. What jumped out to me was my same spiel (sounding more suspicious to me these days because of its predictability in my comments), that the out-of-whack way we live is driving people mad, and behind the rise in suicide rates. Though I repeat it often, and it may be bullshit, I’ll say provisionally anyway that we are not hard-wired to want to kill ourselves, but that we do have needs, and the frequent and sometimes unrelenting frustration of those by a culture that doesn’t provide us intimacy, security and meaning, among other needs, is leading some to desperate acts.

    Also: I don’t know how much I buy this, but I do also have some sympathy for the existentialist idea that our lives are our own, to end as we wish, and to combine that with the above, the choice to kill oneself remains one of our few acts of agency in a world that’s disempowered us.

    On the other hand, the importance of taking responsibility for ourselves makes sense to me. Not in the ‘blame the poor for their poverty’ sort of responsibility, the the responsibility that empowers us, and reminds us that we
    always have options, even if they suck and aren’t fair or just, and we can always make moves, even in the most dismal of circumstances. I’m reminded of an article about slave markets in the earthy nineteenth century I read, noting that the slave would still have some autonomy in how he presented himself to prospective buyers. If he foresaw a master that he perceived less likely to be malicious, he may carry himself so as to encourage this master versus another to buy him. Again, awful unjust circumstances, but still there are options, however constrained they may be.


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