A news update reported that Nicholas Winton, a Briton, who organised the escape of 669 mostly Jewish children from Czechoslovakia on the eve of World War II died in Maidenhead, England. He was 106.
I join with those who have voiced their admiration for this man. I acknowledge his courage and respect his commitment to vulnerable children. I applaud his determination to preserve life.
It is this determination that is so needed in trying to understand the disturbing trends that are evident in suicide statistics.
A recent study published in the journal, JAMA Pediatrics, reported an alarming increase in the suicide rates for African-American children. The study found that from 1993-2012, there were 657 suicides among children ages 5-11. Most of the children were ages 10 or 11. What shocked researchers was that it was the first time a national study found a higher suicide rate for blacks than for whites of any age group.
Emanuel Cleaver, American politician and a member of the United States House of Representatives, commented,
“Suicide is truly a tragedy for any family it affects. There is something especially saddening and shocking when very young children, between the ages 5-11, take their own lives.”
It is well documented that the incidence of suicide among Aboriginal and Torres Strait islander peoples is disproportionate being 2.6 times the rate for non-indigenous Australians. Tragically, it is Australian Aboriginal youth who are ending their lives.
Queensland coroner Terry Ryan, who cited the Australian Bureau of Statistics in his recent inquest into two young suicide victims, said Indigenous children accounted for almost half of the suicides of children aged between 10 and 17 in Queensland between 2004 and 2012.
Across Australia, young Indigenous Australians up to 24 years old are 5.2 times more likely to die due to intentional self-harm than other young people in the same age range.
Journalist and researcher, Gerry Georgatos, who has specialised on the issue of Indigenous suicide, says, “Community’s are asking the question: Why? What’s happening? What can we do?”
There is a desperate need for community leaders, imbued with the spirit of Nicholas Winton, to acknowledge the seriousness of the problem, to understand the complexities of the issue, and to seek out lasting solutions that will provide our young people with a purpose and passion for life.
Suicide Trends Among Elementary School-Age Children in the United States From 1993 to 2012 Jeffrey A. Bridge, PhD et. al. (JAMA Pediatrics Published online May 18, 2015)
Youth suicide at crisis levels among Indigenous population, expert warn Matt Wordsworth (ABC News June 14, 2015)