I suppose Rhode Island Education Commissioner Ken Wagner deserves credit for mentioning non-government organizations when answering a question about young-adult suicide, but his “solemn” answer still elides something important:
A student from Barrington High School said suicide is the third-leading cause of death among young people ages 10-24 in Rhode Island. What can the schools do to help students with mental illness?
Wagner grew solemn. He said he had lost a close friend to suicide when he was young. That was one of the reasons he became a school psychologist. The schools have to invest in mental-health services, he said. But they also have to partner with mental-health organizations, with churches and temples, to get the word out, to publicize the warning signs.
Let’s start by acknowledging that the numbers are, thankfully, relatively small. According to the WISQARS database of the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), the number of suicides among Rhode Islanders 19 and younger was 26. That’s 26 horrible tragedies, but in light of the fact that there are more than 140,000 students enrolled in Rhode Island public schools, it’s a very small percentage, which suggests that the answer is more cultural than representative of a systemic problem that government services can solve.
The disappointing omission in Wagner’s generic, albeit heartfelt, answer is that this isn’t a demographically even group. In the age group that the Barrington student mentioned (10-24), 80% of suicides are boys and young men. If we look only at boys, defined as teens and pre-teens, the percentage is 73%. That goes up to 77% if we just look at 2014 and 2015, meaning that the gender disparity is getting worse.
If teenage suicide is a problem in Rhode Island, it’s overwhelmingly a problem among boys. Yet, Wagner’s boss, Democrat Governor Gina Raimondo, hosts an annual “Governor for a Day” writing contest that is only open to girls.
If we look only at Rhode Islanders aged 20-24, 88% of the 32 suicides over five years were young men. These guys don’t need government services. They need opportunity and a strong, healthy culture that encourages marriage and families. In short, they need everything that the progressive agenda discourages.