Tuesday, 6 October 2009

Lack of light, lack of hope

OK. A bit of a depressing one today, I’m afraid. I can’t help it. There’s something that’s been bothering me for a while and it came to a head yesterday when I heard the tragic news about the two teenage girls who jumped off the Erskine bridge together in a suicide pact. Scotland has the highest suicide rate in the UK, according to figures from the Office for National Statistics. I’ll let that sink in for a moment.
I’ve had my own theories for some time about why this might be. It is well known that a deficiency of daylight can cause depression and let’s face it we are not renowned for having much of that in sunny, old Scotland. But there is more to it than that. We know that social inequality is closely linked to suicide. Then there are changing gender role expectations, increasing unemployment, drugs and alcohol misuse. We now know that both Neve Lafferty and Georgia Rowe came from troubled backgrounds. It saddens me beyond description to think that there are so many young people out there who think there is no hope. A life without dreams or prospects. How heartbreaking to think those two girls, at just 14 and 15 years old thought there was nothing ahead for them, that they had no alternative but to take their own lives. How terrible to think that they never realised their full potential. What a sad reflection of our society today.

I remember doing research for an essay when I was at University and I came across an article that outlined statistics showing that Scottish children have the lowest self esteem in the world. As a mother of a Scottish child I find that deeply troubling. I happen to think that kids get a rough ride. That might make me unpopular, but I don’t care. I know there are some children out there that do terrible things. I’ve seen it first hand and I’ve been on the receiving end of it more than once. But I’ve never stopped believing that there is so much that can be done to make a difference. I believe in the good side of people and when I struggle to see that I try at least to understand why they are ‘bad’. I think it’s just a cop out to label them as rotten to the core. Children are so often used as scapegoats, demonised when there is no-one else to blame for our “Broken Britain”. Yet I meet so many wonderful children during my travels - inspiring and funny and polite and clever. Why do we never hear about them? It must be so difficult growing up under this shadow of negativity.

On this sad day I find myself wondering what made two young, beautiful girls think that their future was so bleak that they had no other option but to link hands and jump? I know it sounds cheesy but I’m with Whitney Houston on this one. The children are our future. Maybe it’s time we started investing in them a bit more.

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