How ministries can play a role in getting youth the support they need.
This summer, on lawns all over my small hometown, a crop of signs appeared, bearing witness to what had happened in our area over the past year. Several teen suicides had rocked our quiet community in Oregon’s Willamette Valley, and people were understandably distraught.
We asked the kinds of questions communities must confront when shocked and shaken by similar tragedies: Why? Why were teenagers taking their lives? Who was to blame for their despair? What could be done to stem the tide of loss?
The white and black signs, no larger than those that flourish during election season, were one mother’s answer to these questions. On a weekend morning, Amy Wolff posted 20 signs around town, each with a singular slogan: “You Matter.” “Don’t Give Up.” “Your Mistakes Do Not Define You.” “You Are Worthy of Love.” In just a few weeks, Wolff’s campaign spread to other communities in Oregon and neighboring states.
Anecdotal evidence suggests young people, including students at Newberg’s schools, have found hope in these messages; Wolff reports hearing from those who have been encouraged to persist in living despite their despair.
Yet for our community—and for many others, where one self-inflicted death is one too many—a small though significant positivity campaign cannot be the end of any effort to combat teen suicide. While affirming that “You Matter” is an important step in helping those struggling with mental illness diagnoses, communities need to take other significant actions to reach those who grapple moment by moment with despair and suicide ideation, particularly at such a young age.
According to the US Centers for Disease Control …
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