For those who requested a copy of then-Surgeon General Dr. C. Everett Koop’s 1982 urgent warning against the alarming surge of 15- to 24-year-old deaths by homicide, suicide and motor vehicle accidents, do join me in urging him to reissue this message to President Barack Obama. Surely the need to effectively treat what Koop rightly called a “number one health problem” is even more critical in 2009. Koop’s number at the Koop Institute of Dartmouth College is 603-646-9890.
Yes, it’s a long shot, and so is trying to enlist CNN anchor Anderson Cooper, whose brother committed suicide, in a suicide prevention effort. Cooper has superbly covered so many natural disasters like Hurricane Katrina and gone back again and again to get the aid so desperately needed. But natural disasters can rarely be prevented, unlike those which so alarmed Koop. With suicide, there’s not enough general awareness or, above all, media attention, on how to prevent these often saddest of life endings. Cooper could be an invaluable ally.
The much younger Cooper might not blame “the entertainment menu” as much as now 90-year-old Koop did for the sharp rise of youth violence, including suicide. If only he and Koop could find another TV outlet for The Waltons, which Hallmark so lamentably just discontinued. This multigenerational G-rated, sensible and sensitive series is never more needed. The Hallmark Channel can be reached at 888-390-7474.
And, not unrelated, why do we hear or see almost nothing of the First Grandmother thankfully living in the White House? How “Grandmother of the World” anthropologist Margaret Mead would love that. The American Bar Association never heeded her impassioned 1977 plea to work to get grandparents back into the lives of their grandchildren because the nuclear family “was just such an inadequate unit.”
Never in my lifetime have the young had so little responsible adult interaction, support, instruction and supervision—or so much exposure to peers, which nowadays can be so unhealthy, hateful and even violent.
And the impulsive, reckless and dangerous behavior, including suicide, that can be triggered by alcohol overuse, especially by those who are underage, is pretty much ignored. Surely related is Gov. David Paterson’s plan to sell wine in supermarkets. These risks are not limited to the young or only for youthful drinking and driving, as the state’s Professional Firefighters association rightly warns would result (reported in this paper’s March 12 edition.) Let’s call 311 and object to this real March madness.
So much depends on how we relate to one another in general, barring pathologies, learning to talk with one another in a sharing and empathic manner. That’s what “love one another” is truly about, and faith groups who profess this creed should be in the vanguard of teaching these sinfully neglected life-saving and health-giving skills, stressing and practicing them.
And to the family of Teddy Graubard, I could not be sorrier that my column so unintentionally heightened your sorrow. Do know your unspeakable loss has renewed my resolve to do more, do something, to help prevent this ultimate heartbreak.
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