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Does Learning Culture Contribute to Teen Suicide?

“I expected to see a rise in suicide...rates”

Lead author Gregory Plemmons, a Nashville-based pediatrician and researcher at Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, tells Romper in a phone interview that he expected to see some rise in suicide hospitalization rates because that's what he had experienced in his own hospital work. But what grabbed his attention, particularly, was the widespread prevalence.

He mentions: "We were surprised that, nationwide, this is a problem everywhere. Geographically, there was no area that was unaffected."

Plemmons’ team also discovered a curious seasonal trend: Hospitalization rates for thoughts or attempts of suicide peaked in mid-fall and mid-spring, respectively, according to NPR. But the number of visits took a nosedive in the summer, when kids are out of school for at least three months, the study's findings showed.

Beyond the shadow of a doubt, our young are in the midst of a rising tide of despair. There are all kinds of factors: Tech habituation and isolation, an economy unfriendly to the young, entitlement unanswered, factory learning and testing and a culture void of warmth and emotion, and the cherry on top: school shooter threat. Kids are locked down, locked in, and subject to what Carol Black calls the Evaluative Gaze of School or Big Brother. Meanwhile, inside kids, like overcooked vegetable in a pressure cooker, Play and They are dying.

Play-Deprivation speaks to a lack of freedom in movement. If you can’t move, it can make one desperate. Bottom Line: psychological paralysis. School culture is contributing to suicide. No Play and We Work All Day is the daily mantra.

In this recent CNN report, we learn that in Japan the grim spike in statistics is linked to the typical start date of the new school term after the summer holiday has ended:

"Japan has one of the highest rates of suicide in the world. [Suicide] is the leading cause of death among those aged 15-39. The government's figures show that in total 18,048 under-18s took their own lives between 1972 and 2013."

In previous posts, we’ve noted how play and Meditation offer schools and young people a powerful neutralizing element. The end game of a healthy learning culture should be a generation of young people who feel empowered to act and think for themselves. In Japan, the learning culture in many ways is more rigid and conformist than in the US, and the individual Japanese student faces a great challenge to become self-motivated and decisive.

That’s why the story of Nanae Munemasa [See above link] is so important. Her capacity for action is curative. Her ability to move--which begins with the stirrings and the freedom to play--is an answer to teen suicide here in the US, Japan, and anywhere else. A victim of bullying starting in elementary school, Nanae considered suicide as a teen but instead chose action in defense of her own individuality and self-worth and moved alone to save her own life. In all likelihood, her parents would have worried about what others might think and preferred that she stay in school. But Nanae looked the monster in the eye, and the monster blinked.

How many parents are prepared to let their kids walk out of school--for keeps? How many kids can see a way out--and be as self-assured enough as Nanae Munemasa to take it? Essay question (20 Points) How do we assess Nanae’s intelligence? Is there a Test? She passed one of those Real World Tests. Does she really need an adult to grade her work and give her a passing mark? How do we tell if she has made the grade?. By her actions. That’s how we tell if someone is real. By what they do. Nanae’s example puts us all on notice. She doesn’t question. She doesn’t complain. She doesn’t agonize. She turns her pain into action. Too many of us-- especially adults-- may see the evil in a system, yet do nothing about it, finding daily a way to live the lie.

If our learning culture, in the extreme, is producing kids–pre and post-graduates–at risk of suicide, with vast numbers in a state of confusion and inaction, they for the most part will not follow Nanae’s example. But it is clearly time for parents to unify and call for end to factory education. The people who run our schools are on autopilot. They will not make the creative changes necessary to bring mental health into the learning culture. Unless parents themselves begin to move. Play is the way.

Learn how you can be part of a transformative movement in education! Follow our blog and subscribe to our mailing list. Follow us on Twitter. Like our Facebook page! If you would like to reach out, email us here: playprinciple@gmail.com

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