A ‘Call to Action’ in Severna Park

Perhaps it was the start of a community coming to terms with its own problem.  No more hiding.  No more silence.  Kids need help.

The newly formed organization, Parenting for a Different World, held a well-attended meeting in Severna Park on Friday night. The topic of discussion was adolescent suicide.  The meeting was billed as a, “Call to Action.”

Anna S. Mueller, PhD,  sociologist and assistant professor at the University of Chicago, Department of Comparative Human Development and  author of “Adolescents Under Pressure,” discussed her study examining the adolescent suicide problem in the community of “Poplar Grove” and took questions from audience members afterwards.

Mueller began by confirming that “Poplar Grove,” the community in the study, is a pseudonym and she wouldn’t say where it was. The study (now behind a paywall) does indicate, in return for the community’s cooperation, the authors (both sociologists) would return to help with suicide prevention efforts.   With this “Call to Action” event,  Mueller had made a return to Severna Park and it was clear she wanted audience members to understand that a community, in its actions, could have a very dangerous impact on the youth living within it.

Also speaking were those representing the branches of Parenting for a Different World – family, sports, faith and service, music and arts and education.

Here are some of the takeaways from the meeting:

– A community plays a role in suicidality in adolescents.  In other words, there are community-based factors, which increase the risk of youth suicide.

– Kids need to know that failure is okay. We’ve all had failures and we can be shaped for the better by them.

– Success and pushing for it too hard sometimes comes with costs. Fatal ones. In “Poplar Grove” the push to succeed starts very early with recreational sports teams. It doesn’t let up as kids get older.

– No single institution can be blamed for a community’s high adolescent suicide rates.

-Avoid bragging about kids and publishing honor rolls in newspapers/other places. Even think about those honor roll bumper stickers. Avoid gossip.

-Mueller mentioned an organization called Challenge Success as a resource.  According to its website, “At Challenge Success, we believe that our society has become too focused on grades, test scores, and performance, leaving little time for kids to develop the necessary skills to become resilient, ethical, and motivated learners. We provide families and schools with the practical, research-based tools they need to create a more balanced and academically fulfilling life for kids. After all, success is measured over the course of a lifetime, not at the end of a semester.”

-Social media is an ongoing issue with today’s adolescents.

-Another factor to keep in mind – today’s teens/tweens are a recession generation and one that experienced the stress that an economic downturn can have on a family.

Regarding social media – on Tuesday evening, also in Severna Park, there’s a screening of “Screenagers” – a documentary about parenting in the digital age, followed by a panel discussion. Here’s the info – https://www.eventbrite.com/e/severna-park-middle-school-pto…

Keep an eye on the Parenting for a Different World website  www.pdworld.org for more upcoming events, resources and other information.

WNAV will be continuing the series on suicide prevention in the coming weeks. To learn more about the show which was the impetus for the series, click here –  http://www.annapoliscreative.com/poplar-grove-and-a-serious-adolescent-suicide-problem.  The follow-up to that show is detailed here – http://www.annapoliscreative.com/poplar-grove-and-a-serious-adolescent-suicide-problem-part-two.



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