School and Suicide
September 1st is the first day back to school after summer vacation. (The other peak in the graph of suicides in the linked article corresponds to the start of school in Japan, on various days at the beginning of April every year.) In any case it is clear that a return to school is implicated in spikes in child suicide.
I’m not really sure where to start with this. It’s clearly a problem. The public response in Japan to these revelations has been along the lines of: “let’s all be careful at this time,” which is great in that it finds a role for everyone to cooperate, but it also falls into a familiar pattern of justifying failures of authority there that often results in victim-blaming. It seems clear that schools should be reformed in some way.
It is a problem if children hate school or are driven to such anxiety at the prospect of attending or returning to school that they choose to end their own lives.
Nevertheless, I’m reminded of a conversation I had once with a lady who was cutting my hair. We were talking about kids, and she asked where I sent my kids to daycare. I told her we didn’t send our kids to daycare and that we were homeschooling our oldest two children. “You need to get those kids in daycare and give your wife a break!” she exclaimed. The comment immediately depressed me, for a variety of reasons.
This past week, we decided to enroll our two oldest daughters in one of New Orleans’ charter schools. The school system down here has a great deal of inequality, and it is difficult to explain to those who are not already familiar with it. All sorts of nonsense has been written about it in the press on this tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. (In fact, all sorts of nonsense has been written on a great deal of topics in the press on this tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, when really, the best way to understand it all is to see the documentary Big Charity, currently unavailable outside the New Orleans festival circuit for a variety of intriguing reasons.)
To make a long story short, enrolling our daughters in their particular public school was a unique educational opportunity that suddenly sprang up for us, and both of them were excited to meet and learn with other kids their ages. I realized though, walking back from that first drop-off, that not all parents have education first in mind when it comes to their kids going to school. There are many parents who just see school as a way to get their kids out of their hair for the day, and public school is basically free daycare for these people.
This is depressing. Perhaps then, it is not going to school itself that is driving children to suicide, but what that action represents: a forced segregation and a disconnect from family and loved ones and exposure to an uncaring, unnoticing, antiseptic system, bullies – an indifferent society. In that sense, it seems like suicide in schools may resemble suicide in prison.
Of course, sussing out causality is difficult, and these suicides are likely to be multi-factorial and for culturally-dependent reasons. Further speculation is beyond me.
Image by shinealight