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Concern about Australia’s suicide rate

Tuesday, 3 October 2017  | John Kidson

John Kidson

The long-time effect of misleading messages sold musically to popular culture is still apparent. The Righteous Brothers once declared:

            If you believe in forever, then life is just a one night stand -

            If there’s a rock’n’roll heaven - they’re sure to have a hell of band!

We had Kurt Cobain’s example and John Mellencamp’s thinly disguised encouragement:

            oh yeah, life goes on, - long after the thrill of living is gone!

Senator Lambie recently stated that we need three life components to ensure a diminishing suicide rate: educational; vocational; and occupational.

To these, I would add a fourth: aspirational. I believe this is the key component underpinning the other three. Young people need something to aspire to, something to aim for; education, vocation and occupation are a means to this end.

While our TV reminds us daily of phone numbers we can call ‘if we are affected by this story’, it seems such opportunities are often too little, too late - they fail to halt, or even to slow down, Australia’s youth suicide rate.

So it was encouraging to hear recently of the Muslim help-line for adolescents and their families. Apparently senior members of the Australian Muslim community, wishing to assist younger members in working out their faith, are encouraging avoidance of extremism and an acceptance of the good life - the thrill of living - in this ‘lucky country’s multi-cultural society’.

It’s good to see such thinking and to know that some potential young Islamists might aspire to more than a mere martyr’s reward of nubile virgins. However, the current ad hoc marriage plebiscite underlines the importance for all of society to provide an antidote to teenage navel gazing. As young people grow in understanding that their identity is not constricted to a current black-and-white LGBTIQ preference, society must highlight their whole life of choices stretching ahead.

That Muslims are not the only religious leaders to teach the young the value of holistic and peaceful pursuits must give heart to all concerned citizens. The Sydney Anglican Diocese’s Year 13 program aimed at school leavers is a twelve-month course to equip senior teens with skills in cross-cultural and generational communication and in leadership, preparing them for a life of active service.

Great! And I long for of a day when adolescents from all faiths, or none, join together to celebrate peace ... what a great festival that would be. Differing expressions of hope; different styles of music (drugs and alcohol forgotten); young people aspiring to make this world better; all believing they are headed for a ‘new world somewhere’.

You may say I'm a dreamer - but I'm not the only one’, to quote John Lennon. But, as a believer, I call on every type of ‘God-botherer’. So, to all people who believe in ‘forever’, who see this life as a step to the next, I say: let’s do more for aspiring young leaders to stay working on this step for at least longer than a ‘one night stand’.

Muslims, Christians, Jews, Hindus - any who espouse a ‘forever philosophy’ - could work in harness by encouraging their followers to spread ‘the peace word’ together. The events of last Palm Sunday in Egypt prove that only agreement on broad points of philosophy, not on any tenets of ‘doctrine’, could be reached. But, in Australia, surely a fair-minded mixed group could join together to work cohesively in sharing many positive human values like love, decency and life itself, for the sake of our youth?

Mentors of each group could have the opportunity to teach our young true-life values. Perhaps this could attract some government funding. Forget study for the dole. What about study for a life? Study to help the world?

John Kidson is a former Chaplain at Southern Cross Uni in Lismore, NSW.

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