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Teen Suicide, Education and Emotional, Psychological Needs


Humans have definite emotional needs. Some of these are the need to feel accepted, appreciated, respected, significant. (See list) What I mean by "psychological needs" is more like our need to satisfy our intellectual hunger - our desire for knowledge, for understanding, for truth, for intellectual challenge. Since it is well known that schools are typically designed for the average student, the above average student is often bored or worse. And if this student happens to also be highly emotionally sensitive, and comes from an emotionally dysfunctional family, he or she is going to need more from the school environment in order to remain mentally healthy.

If they don't get what they need at school, there are bound to be problems. And since they are not free to try to take care of their own mental health, but instead ordered around and controlled constantly within schools, they stand little chance of healing the emotional wounds from the home. For example, a depressed person often just needs time alone to go through the natural process of feeling the sadness or loss or whatever type of pain that has caused the depression. But such time alone is simply non-existent in schools. A depressed person also needs emotional support and many schools are about the farthest places from emotional support that one could imagine if one does not fit in with the crowd. Instead they are places of what we could almost call emotional torture.

Let's take a more specific example. Let's say a sensitive girl who has been abused in some way at home is laughed at in her math class. Let's say her natural instinct is to cry and go to someone for a comforting hug. Think about the reaction she would get if she just got up, walked out and went to look for her boyfriend in another class and said "David, I need a hug."

Most of us can not even conceive of anything like this happening. This is not because it is so unnatural. No, far from being unnatural, this would be the natural, healthy thing to do. Yet we cannot picture this happening because it is not the "normal" thing to do. It is just not what people do in math classes. It is not normal, but this just reminds us that what is normal is not always healthy.

But why isn't it normal?

Why have math classes taken a higher importance in our society than our human feelings and our emotional needs? Why is "getting on with it", "getting over" things, "being strong", "pulling yourself together, and "getting back on task" so important for a 13 year old highly emotionally sensitive and emotionally intelligent girl?

Do we really want to turn this sensitive young person into a human robot? Or worse yet, an unfeeling killing machine, as schools in England seem to be trying to do by teaching 13 year old females like this to shoot guns? (See Education in England)

But the lack of emotional support does not end when the student leaves the school property. Let's say on the way out she runs looking for her boyfriend but can't find him. Let's say she is afraid her mother, who is waiting to take her home, will be angry at her. Let's say the mother doesn't approve of the boyfriend because he is a non-conformist and doesn't care much about his grades or his clothes. Let's say when the girl gets in the car the mother immediately begins interrogating her with questions like, "Why were you late?" Were you talking to that freak again" "Did you remember your math book tonight, or did you forget it again?" "What's wrong with you?" "Why aren't you saying anything?" "Oh come on! Wipe that poor-me look off your face and stop being so full of self-pity."

Then let's say when they get home she is told she can't talk to her friends, leave the house, or get on MSN, which is her only outlet for releasing her feelings, until she has finished her homework. But let's say the mother gets angry because the girl isn't looking cheerful enough at the dinner table and didn't even want to come when she was told to. So the mother says "Okay, That's it. If that's the way you want to be, there will be no Internet tonight. Go to your room. I can't stand the sight of you." (All of this is perfectly legal, by the way. Or at least it is socially accepted. No court in the world, that I know of, would rule that this girl should be placed in a different home.)

So what is this girl going to do with her emotional pain from being laughed at in math class and the mounting emotional pain which follows?

I can tell you what she is going to do. I can tell you because I have talked to this girl, and many others like her. She is going to take a knife or a razor blade or a piece of broken glass and she is going to cut herself with it. She is going to get a bottle of pills and try to kill herself.

If you think I am exaggerating, or mistaken, then please write me and tell me what you think she is going to do with her pain.

Steve Hein
May 2005

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