My local paper had an article culled from the AP wire, linking teen's body image, to increases in suicide attempts. According to the article by Lindsey Tanner, "teenagers who perceived themselves at either weight extreme--very fat or really skinny--were more than twice as likely as normal-weight teenagers to attempt or think about suicide." This article was based on a recent study which appears in the June issue of Archives of Pediatrics & Adolescent Medicine, published Monday.
This is interesting as it is the perception teens have of their body shape that drives this increase. My thought was where did the perception come from? Certainly, our media-obsessed, cult-of-personality pecking order determines whether women (and men) have the body shape deemed acceptable. Whether this caricatured image is realistic and attainable doesn't matter. From Britney Spears to the chemically-enhanced athletes and other models splattered across billboards, in magazine adds and commercials, today's teens are fed a steady stream of obviously harmful and erroneous information about who they are.
From the study, the following stats made me sit up and notice, as I read them; About 19 percent said they had considered suicide in the previous year and about 9 percent said they had attempted it. To break it down, one in five teens have considered suicide and one in 10 have attempted to end their lives. This is not encouraging.
I decided to email a friend and librarian who is very knowledgeable on the subject. I was curious how she viewed these stats. I thought they seemed high. She did not. Here are a few of her thoughts on the subject:
"I am surprised that the stats are not higher; if kids were not afraid to be truthful to others and more importantly to themselves (acknowledging they could use some help) I think we would see higher documented statistics. But now it's getting to the point where these kids have noone to go to. Parents are too busy with their own problems or are in denial or just trying to keep a roof over their families heads and the teachers in school that teens would seek out are not there because they are too afraid of getting in trouble, because perhaps they may be "crossing boudaries" which in the majority of cases, is crap."
My friend is a former educator who left that field because the current climate in public schools prevented her from being who she needed to be as a teacher. I trust her judgement on this matter.
It's terribly depressing and a real indictment on our corporate-culture that our best and brightest are made to feel that a few extra pounds, or not having the ideal weight is reason to end their lives.