There is one current social problem that has plagued my hometown community recently. Downers Grove Illinois is a Southwest suburb of Chicago and is home to approximately 50,000 residents according to the 2008 United States Census. The specific problem has left families shattered, neighborhoods in shock, and most importantly young lives tragically ended. The trouble that has turned my hometown upside down recently is teen suicide. While many would say 50,000 residents is a large township, anyone who is product of this community would argue that it is a tightly knitted bunch, a proud bunch. What then, could possibly bring such a bustling community to its knees, and asking for answers in vain? The answer is the staggering explosion in suicide rates in and around DuPage County. Coroner records show 78 suicides occurred in DuPage County in 2009.
The frequency in suicides continued to climb with no apparent sign of slowing down. This social problem was nothing new, but with an influx in rates in recent years it had finally came to the forefront. The American Association of Suicidology reports 34,598 Americans committed suicide in 2007, 27,000 of them males. Suicide is considered the third leading cause in death for males ages 15-24. Whether it was a dinner conversation, catching up with an old hometown friend, or gathering for a refreshment with acquaintances at a wake service, suicide was no longer a whisper. What bothered us and our surrounding Chicago land suburbs was how helpless we felt. What could I have done? Did we do enough? Was there writing on the wall? All of these questions broke the hearts of my neighbors, my teachers, my friends, and my community. These reasons, coupled with the mourning of a life were exactly what bothered our town.
While suicide in itself has many dark facets, recently the NBC Digital Health Network has highlighted Downers Grove suicides in an attempt to uncover underlying causes which more frequently than not remain unspoken and hushed. Dr. David Shaffer, head of adolescent psychology Columbia University states that the “patterns are usually straightforward.” Dr. Shaffer points to depression amongst young people as the outright cause. Noted, it is not clearly stated what roots the depression as that is a whole other problem affecting communities. This has sparked widespread advocacy for mental health in mine and surrounding communities. Prevention and awareness programs have sprouted all around DuPage County. One in particular which was highlighted in a Chicago Tribune article, High rates of suicide in Chicago, Suburbs raise red flags, “help and hope” reach out to social institutions such as schools and hospitals to raise awareness on mental health and specifically suicide. I am very proud that programs such as these have grown around my community. Suicide has been robbed of its lurking nature, as communities we no longer write it off as isolated cases of troubled teens. Downers Grove as well as surrounding communities have stood up and looked suicide in its face, strived to become better informed on warning signs, and most importantly have stressed to teenagers that they are not alone and have options.