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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Why Doesn't the World Pay Attention to Our Teenagers?

For those of you who kept up with the news this past week, Germany suffered a very tragic loss that we have seen played out far too many times here in the U.S. A Stuttgart high school student pulled a Columbine-type shooting and killed and injured 15 high school students. What is going on with Germany? Haven't they learned from the United States and Columbine and Virginia Tech?

The saddest part is this 17-year old boy bragged on an online chat room that he was going to shoot his fellow classmates and "watch for him in the news." Unfortunately, no one in the chat room believed him (until they saw it on the news the next day).

What were the therapists thinking who allowed this German student not to continue his therapy? Unfortunately, the story read a lot like the Virginia Tech's shooter (suffered from depression/mental health issues and therapy was discontinued when it shouldn't have been stopped).

The saddest part is, once again, this teen boy got lost in the system and no one helped him - or didn't help him enough. There were signs a long time ago. Other kids didn't like him and he was teased - he was anti-social and mean to other kids. He obviously had mental health issues. The educators (and his parents) should have taken more proactive steps to help him.

I felt like I was reading about Columbine and Virginia Tech all over again when I read about this German student. Hasn't the world learned anything? Why aren't adults paying attention to teenagers? What makes adults become so consumed with their own lives that they just ignore the realities of the mental health issues of teens?

The scary part is that there are MORE teens out there with similar thoughts, but they haven't acted upon their thoughts (not yet anyway). Just like Columbine and Virginia Tech and now this German teen- the shooters were on the fringe of their school. They were kids who felt ignored, shunned, unloved and battled serious mental health issues. In the end, they all took their own lives at very young ages.

What drives these teen boys to such heinous crimes? Obviously, all of them suffered severe mental health issues but why weren't any of them helped? What makes us, as a world, push aside our teenagers and not care? Teens have always gotten a bad rap. I was a teenager once and I remember all the angst and confusion that went along with my teen years. Those are years I wouldn't care to repeat, but I also had support and positive role models during my teen years. I feel very grateful for those good influences during my sometimes tumultuous years.

I wrote an editorial last year in response to a local business owner who responded in his column to a concerned teen citizen who voiced his opinion about his concerns about skateboard parks and not having a place for teens to ride their skateboards. This kid was asking for a legitimate answer and directing it to a local business person. He wanted some "real" answers.

The columnist didn't take his questions seriously and he commently flippantly - he told the teen boy to "hold his breath until he was blue in the face." This a-hole jerk business owner tried to play it off that he was only joking with the teen, but I pointed out his cruel comments and told him that a local business owner that his comment was both sarcastic and heartless.

This is a good example of an adult who basically doesn't care about a teenager's opinion and also represents the world's attitude towards teenagers. The world just doesn't care. They don't care UNTIL it's too late - until Columbine...and once again, they don't notice UNTIL another teen goes into a school and shoots and kills fellow students.

Teens are the future and voice of our world. They have a lot of hope in front of them and they also have a lot of turmoil as well - adults of the world, don't take that hope away from them and give them a place in this world. Pay attention and listen to them. Even if they drive you nuts and frustrate you and want to lock them away until they are 21, don't give up on them and don't wait until it's too late.

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