I wonder how might you have reacted, my friend, if you had arrived home from college and found something obstructing the back door. After a struggle you manage to force it part-way open and whatever it is that is resisting you finally allows itself to be shoved to one side. As you squeeze round the door and step over the obstruction you realise that it is your sister lying there, still, not aware of you, her writs cut.
Was it her exam results, her appearance, her failure to lose weight or some nasty texts or posts on social media? Had she entrusted someone with privately taken selfies? These are the things which now trouble so many girls and young women.
We have accepted a government-led obsession with school examination results; a few weeks back The Times reported the suicide of a sixteen year-old girl whose mock GCSE results were disappointing. It is an obsession that has overwhelmed schools to the extent that good results often matter more for the school than the mental well-being of students.
We have also allowed advertisers to bombard children and young people, especially girls, with images of supposed female perfection and celebrity status is conferred on the people who inhabit these bodies. Have we already forgotten the celebrity mother and daughter who took their own lives and left their children motherless?
We might double the number of mental health workers as the Royal College of Psychiatrists seems to recommend but that would really be only a diversion from causes to symptoms. If we adults really want to prevent the stress to which so many young people now seem susceptible we must grow up quickly and, if necessary, deny ourselves the preoccupations and indulgences and obsessions which present themselves so troublingly to children and young people. We could start by showing young people how to care for others rather than concern ourselves with ourselves.
And unless and until we can help younger generations to see that failure is not the end of the world, but something from which we can learn, unless we turn our collective backs on entertainment for example, that is so often focussed on others’ misfortunes, and reject the trivialities of celebrity culture, then I see little hope for the dependents whom we bring into the world.