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Tuesday, June 19, 2018

The Danger Of Minimizing

Among the courses I developed and taught during my years doing adult education was one entitled "Adolescent Depression and Suicide". I have a reasonably clear recollection of the content of that six hour course, the usual audience being folks who worked in child protective services.

"Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem". That specific teaching point from the course - one I repeatedly delivered, reflecting the conventional wisdom about suicide at that time - seemed logical and appropriate, almost self-evident. The statement now strikes me as glib, at best. It is almost surely wrongheaded. How helpful can it be to someone in a suicidal crisis to be informed their problems are "temporary"? Even worse is teaching people who might be in a position one day to intervene in a suicidal situation to discount another person's pain this way. Were I developing the curriculum today for that course, especially considering recent events and the alarming increase in suicide among all age groups over the last twenty years, I would jettison that teaching point.

What might I use instead? I'd require all students to read the op-ed below, written by Kevin Powers - author of the transcendent novel "The Yellow Birds"- that appeared in this past Sunday's NY Times. Then I'd lead a discussion on empathy and the potential danger of minimizing.

https://www.newsstandhub.com/the-new-york-times/what-kept-me-from-killing-myself

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