#parents | #teensvaping | TEENS: An issue that lurks close to home, from a teen’s perspective

This column describes my experiences and views currently as a teen in a rural community. I am aware that there are many different opinions other than my own. I am only stating my own opinion on the matter.

Certain moments in our lives are so impactful that we can recall a multitude of details. When I walked into school one morning during my first year of high school, I was greeted with an odd assembly. The usual chitter-chattering lunchroom where we usually stand before first period was somber and silent. No smiles, no laughter, just blank faces and hushed whispers.

As someone who has lived in a rural community all my life, I knew this meant that something big had happened. Yet, I don’t think I could have prepared for what I heard.

The teen was from a few towns over. They were someone that I had never truly met or known. The pain of the loss of a fellow teen by suicide hit me with brutal force. Before this, I hadn’t even considered the possibility of such an event happening. Sure, there was the occasional school assembly on the matter, but it had never seemed like something that could happen just a few towns over.

I suddenly felt worried, and this worry buried me in the rubble of this earthquake of an event. What about my friends? My family? Are they considering the same thing? Do they just keep these thoughts to themselves?

In rural communities across the Midwest, similar events are happening. Teens are not the
only ones; suicide in general is happening more and more frequently in areas such as our own. While it happens in almost every community at some point, the percentage of suicides in rural areas is higher than in suburban and urban communities.

Just last month, the Journal of the American Medical Association published the findings on suicides in recent years by area. The conclusion of these findings is that rural communities have had a significantly higher increase in suicide rates than more urban areas. Data such as this seems to speak for itself.

It is time to open our eyes; this is not something that will resolve itself with time. As time ticks on, the rates of suicide are rising. The time for action is now.

Even governmental health agencies see a higher risk of suicide in communities. The
American Psychological Association writes that the primary causes for this can be attributed to accessibility to weapons and drugs while having limited access to adequate or effective health care options.

Guns, drugs and health care are not simple quick fix problems, they are root issues that dominate the political atmosphere of our nation. Even right now as the 2020 election looms, candidates are battling over these topics.

I am not trying to start a war over these issues or state whether one party is better than
another. Politics are their own form of a freedom of opinion that I am not trying to encroach
upon; I only wish to remind everyone to keep in mind how policies and laws affect our communities. It is time to have a conversation on things that can affect the individual and the masses. If we don’t do something soon, who will be next? A friend? A family member who tells you the funniest jokes at the Thanksgiving table? A teacher? That one coworker who you sit with in the break room?

As the world burns around us, what role will you choose? Will you be watching the flames or pulling others from the fire? How close to home does the fire have to be for you to feel the heat?

ABIGAIL DENAULT is a junior at Somonauk High School. She can be contacted via Associate Editor Julie Barichello at jbarichello@shawmedia.com.

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