The suicide rate in New Mexico fell in 2016 for the first time in several years, but remained high in Taos County, according to the state Department of Health.
Several Taos High School students talked recently about what they think causes people, especially youth, to attempt suicide and what could done to address the problem.
According to Taos High School students, the root cause is pressure. Martha Yelci, 16, believes that one of the main problems teens face today is academic pressure and the pressure to be perfect. This pressure to be perfect has been reinforced by social media platforms, which, among other things, show off people who appear to be perfect. Others may view these pictures and attempt to look exactly like these perfect people, when in reality, those perfect people are probably just as imperfect as the rest of us. However, others may not see it that way and strive to become something other than themselves, ending up with a lack of self-assurance. These social media platforms may be a reason we can see such a difference in suicide rates from the last generation to this one.
While the last generation could only compare themselves to the people they knew, our generation has access to the entire world because of the widespread use of technology. "As far as I know, everyone in this school has a phone," Yelci said.
Technology is a dual-edged sword. On one hand, if someone is suffering, millions of online communities let them know they're not alone. However, the media unwittingly created the unattainable goal of perfection that this generation keeps trying to achieve. Still, Ian Tosta, 16, argues that if a person already has suicidal thoughts, social media outlets will only reinforce these thoughts, not cause them. "The media is a symptom of the problem, not the cause," Tosta said.
Zach Ginn, 16, said that instant gratification also plays a role. He thinks that since we have a world of information and entertainment at our fingertips, we don't really have to do anything anymore to get something we want, and therefore, we don't enjoy as many things.
Leah Epstein, 16, presumes that people with societal power can definitely make a difference in preventing suicide because they have a lot of influence over this generation. However, others argue that people can only make a difference if a majority of them are involved. Otherwise, nothing will be achieved; influential people can only make a difference if a person with suicidal thoughts holds them in high respect.
The people with the most power over someone who is suicidal are the ones who are a part of their everyday life. A positive/negative attitude toward a suicidal person is one of the most powerful tools a person has. A suicidal person feels extremely isolated, and just letting someone know that they're not alone is enough to make a big difference.
Humans naturally have a drive for survival. That drive can only be overpowered if people feel completely alone, if they are suffering from depression or if they believe that their life isn't preferable to death. However, it is never too late to change a suicidal person's mind. Tosta recalled the story of a man who jumped off the Golden Gate Bridge; he left a note in his bureau that said he was going to walk the bridge and if one person smiled at him, he would not jump. The main problem in our society is that people choose to ignore the problem and don't treat depression as an actual illness. Educating people about the causes of suicide is an important step toward reducing the rate.
Johann is a junior at Taos High School and an intern at The Taos News. Thanks to Martha Yelci, Leah Epstein, Jenna Basehart, Zach Ginn and Ian Tosta for lending your opinions on this controversial issue.