When deciding what articles to pursue, I often look to compelling statistics to find the story. And the following statistics shocked me. In 2010, there were 1,182 deaths by suicide among those ages 15 to 18; that number jumped to 1,458 in 2015, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Two years ago, a CDC survey found that nearly 18 percent of high school students had seriously considered suicide in the previous twelve months. Suicide is the second leading cause of death among young people and it’s hit the area where I live hard. During the past academic year, our small community lost three young people to suicide. It would be easier to feel the sorrow and not probe this sensitive topic. It would be easier not to pester the grieving parents and have to ask them to relive the memories of their loved one. In other words, it would be easier to shy away from covering suicides. But avoiding the topic altogether has not proven helpful. Research shows that writing about teen suicide does not encourage more teens to take their lives. In fact, the data argues that awareness of the problem can lead to solutions and outreach and providing the help that our young people so desperately need. So I wrote my third article on the topic, this time for The Ann Arbor Observer. (I previously wrote an article for Good Housekeeping and another for The Michigan Alumnus. ) I’m grateful that the Roberts family understands the importance of spreading awareness on teen suicide and so bravely sat down with me to reminisce about their precious son. The reaction from the community to the piece has been extremely positive. Those who have been hit hard by suicides of young people all seem to realize that discussing this — not sweeping it under the rug as if it never happened — is key in addressing this epidemic. I hope there will be inroads and that I won’t have to write about this painful subject any time soon. But if there is another tragedy, I will not hesitate to confront the topic again. It’s something that any responsible member of the media should do.
Each spring, we’re bombarded with articles about the continually increasing selectivity of the nation’s top colleges. This held particular relevance for me this year. My baby, and third born, will be starting college in the fall. I’m thrilled that she got into a highly respected college, one that was her top choice. But I’m even happier that this process is over. The stress leading up to this decision weighed heavy on both my daughter and her parents. I believe strongly that your self worth should have nothing to do with the college you attend, but everywhere she would go her senior year, the inevitable question would surface: Where are you going to college? My daughter is happy she can now answer that, but even more, she is delighted that she can focus on the excitement of learning. She is hugely relieved that the rat race to getting into college has ended. As stressful as this has been for her, it doesn’t compare to the pressures that so many other high school students face, because of the incredible high school she has attended. I discussed this in my most recent Huffington Post blog:
As a journalist, I tend to shy away from taking strong positions on issues I cover, but there’s one belief I will share, since I feel so strongly about it: We need to put an end to the unnecessary and unhealthy emphasis on college admissions.