Our young women are dying

Reposted with permission. Originally posted on the lovely’s blog and I thought it was so important that I wanted to post it again. The lovely isn’t sure what traffic she wants to her blog, so I’ve not linked it here.

The Sydney Morning Herald today reports that suicide rates are up.  The rate has risen to 12 per 100,000 people, the highest it has been since 2001.  There have been significant surges in a number of different parts of the population – suicides in those between 55 and 64 have risen by 54% in the past ten years and the number of young women (aged 15-24) completing suicide has increased by 50% over the same period.

This is in spite of increased recognition of mental illness, attempts to increase the conversations about mental illness and decrease the stigma related to it.  Some of the reasons for suicide among middle aged Australians are known – chronic health problems and deteriorating quality of life for any of a number of reasons – but why are so many of our young women choosing to end their lives?  Women are more likely to reach out for help, more likely to talk but somehow this isn’t enough to stop the pain.

One of the board directors at Suicide Prevention Australia suggests that in order to find this out we need to speak to those whose suicide attempts have been unsuccessful.  We need to understand what drives them to take such drastic action, what leads them to believe that there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

The article quotes one such young woman who survived a suicide attempt.  She speaks of a history of anxiety, pressure to do well, competition between peers and feeling of not being good enough.  I don’t think that she is alone in these feelings.  I remember many nights of trying to convince my eldest daughter that there were many paths that could be taken in life, that her school work did not have to be perfect, that she did not have to be perfect.  I remember listening to her tell me stories of how her friends would not study with each other, would not explain misunderstood maths concepts, would not proof read each others work  in case this meant that the other got a better mark than them.  There were nights, and I am thankful there were not many, where she felt everything was too hard and I was terrified that she would make the same devastating choice that many other young women are making.

I’m reminded of a TED Talk, that I am yet to listen to, on why we don’t teach our girls to be brave rather than perfect and this resonates with me. I want so much to tell our young women that the world is a tough place but that there are many, many ways to travel it.  They may not follow the path they thought they would follow but this doesn’t make it or them wrong, just different.  I want them to know that there are false starts and dead ends but that these are opportunities to learn and grow and not the end of the road.  I want to tell them that not everybody can be the best at something and that in reality very few of us are the best.  But we are all good enough and there is a place for everyone in this world.  I want them to be able to pick themselves up after they fall down, brush themselves off and look around to see what else the world has to offer.  I wish I knew how to teach them to be brave, not perfect, alive not dead.


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