Concern about increasingly violent society Print
Written by Mary C. Uhler, editor   
Thursday, Oct. 21, 2010 -- 12:00 AM

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As we continue our reflections during Respect Life Month, my thoughts this week turn to the increasing incidents of violence in our world.

It seems as if violence is so prevalent today, from abortion to domestic violence, from gang violence to human trafficking, from war to the death penalty, from destroying human embryos for research to physician-assisted suicide.

We see violent acts almost daily on television news and often in fictional shows, in movies, and in video games. Even our sports are more violent, witness the increasing number of injuries among players.

Increase in teen suicides

Is it any wonder that our young people have been affected by so much violence in our culture? One alarming trend is the increase in the number of teen suicides. Statistics show that suicide is the third leading cause of death among teenagers in our country (see

Besides the actual deaths, there are many more attempted suicides. The National Institute of Mental Health has said that there may be as many as 25 suicides attempted for each one that is completed. Many of these attempted suicides are a cry for help which family and friends should not ignore.

What are the causes of teenage suicide? Risk factors include aggressive or disruptive behavior, substance abuse, and depression. The Web site Teen Suicide reports, “These are risk factors that play on the often tumultuous feelings experienced by teenagers. Intense feelings can contribute to a teen’s sense of helplessness and to a general feeling that life is not worth living. Taking these feelings seriously is an important part of preventing teen suicide.”

Because firearms are used in more than half of teen suicides, it is important to realize that easy access to firearms and ammunition can contribute to a teenage death by suicide. Teenagers who express suicidal thoughts and feelings should not have ready access to firearms, the Teen Suicide Web site suggests.

Studies show that four out of five teen suicides have been preceded by clear warning signs, such as withdrawing from family and friends, changes in sleep and eating habits, and loss of interest in schoolwork or jobs.

Obviously, teenagers often don’t know how to deal with their feelings and problems and are looking for someone to help them find assistance. We can help by acknowledging these warning signs and helping teens seek help for the problem and offering support to a teenager who is working through his or her issues.

Our Catholic faith may be one source of help for troubled young people. Realizing that God loves them may help give them hope for the future.

Counteracting violence in society

What’s interesting is that information on teen suicides rarely mentions the prevalence of violence in society as a risk factor. It seems that violence is something that we take for granted.

How do we change our society? Mother Teresa has an answer. We must persuade people with love, she said, and “remind ourselves  that love means to be willing to give until it hurts,” as Jesus did.

It’s not always easy to intervene in other people’s lives. They may not appreciate our help. But if we don’t reach out to others with love, violence may continue to be the answer.

We  should do whatever we can to support efforts to reduce or eliminate violence in our society in any form.