I had Chris with me this afternoon for the Tuesday Group Lent service. He led the prayers and I gave the address. It was a pleasure to share this ministry with someone else. I enjoy the 'mentor' role, and the good conversations and thinking this sparks off.
Lately, there's been a lot of media attention given to the spate of young suicides in Bridged District over the past eighteen months. Is there something sinister behind it, an internet driven death cult? Or is it as the local AM Carwyn James seems to think, nothing more than a statistical average over the population area, to which the media have drawn undue attention?
Cardiff has a disproportionately higher population of young people, due to its Universities. With two and a half times the population of Bridgend and district, one would expect to hear of around fifty young suicides in Cardiff during the same period. But we haven't, to my knowledge. It's no wonder that many in the Bridgend area are troubled.
It strikes me that youngsters are now growing up with a poorer sense respect for life, and how to take care of it, when you think of fatal car accidents with young drivers, dangerous sports, violent behaviour, binge drinking, drug taking or substance abuse. Many risk their lives, whether for the thrill, or to impress others, or because they seek an antidote to the inner misery they experience, in an insecure world, where they're always having to prove who they are to someone, or watched, either as a security risk or for fashionable appearance and attractiveness, or for performance in exams, or employment.
In previous generations when young people went to work earlier, there was less of a gap between adults and young people. Role models for growing up into society were accessible folk usually decent and reliable, who lived not far away, who were around every day. Menotring was an informal business not a professional requirement. Now we're in a time when role models are public heroes or stars, people at a distance marketed as 'personalities' like products rather than people. They're not always exemplars of life giving, life enhancing behaviour.
With the distancing from daily life of those who provide ordinary role models for the young, fantasy about life and what it's worth has dangerously contaminated reality. This, to my mind, contributes to making it possible for all sorts of nice ordinary youngsters to do unthinkable things. There are fewer people to tell them that they shouldn't even think of it, or that it's not worth the risk of doing.
In a world where we're urged 'live your dreams' (strapline on the side of a ride simulator machine often working in Queen Street on weekends and holidays), the dark side of us is entertained rather than mastered, with damaging consequences.
How does society pull back from sliding into the abyss?