Suicide rate debate

Youth suicide rates have tripled since the 1950s.

Why? Why do more of today’s youngsters feel that life is not worth living, that death is the way out of the pain of day-to-day life? David Lester has an opinion.

A noted expert on suicide and prolific author and researcher, Lester has written and edited over 70 books during his 40-year career, including Katie’s Diary: Unlocking the Mystery of a Suicide.

“It’s a very different kind of life we lead today,” says Lester, pointing to today’s teens, many having cars and $120 sneakers. “Marginal people look at everybody else, at TV and the incredible lifestyles put forth, and they say, ‘Why am I so depressed’? I think when life gets easier, those of us who are unhappy get worse. We have lots of time to sit around and think about our unhappiness.”

In contrast, Lester cites his own childhood, growing up in London during World War II, with both parents working 6-day weeks, 12 hours a day to make ends meet.

“We say, ‘Life is so hard for kids today.’ But I don’t think the conditions of adolescence have changed that greatly,” Lester adds. “You begin to worry about issues that when life was harder, you don’t worry about—you don’t have time to worry about. Like life and the meaning of life. ”


David Lester, PhD, Distinguished Professor of Psychology, The Richard Stockton College of New Jersey, is author of five books on suicide.

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