In a drug-ravaged town plagued by unexplained youth suicides, football is a savior

In a drug-ravaged town plagued by unexplained youth suicides, football is a savior

To most people, it may seem inconceivable that a picturesque and intimate town, steeped in history and famous for its cultural festivals, is battling a series of devastating circumstances. Madison, a small town of approximately 12,000 people in Indiana, is considered a national treasure for its elite collection of monuments. It is also a town ravaged by drug addiction and suicide, particularly among students and young adults. Perhaps the most worrisome aspect is that nobody knows why this is happening.

Residents of Madison can be heard speaking in hushed voices, unable to accept that their close-knit community is undergoing such a crisis. Recent media reports have highlighted an alarming increase in the number of Madison youth dying by suicide. Among all Indiana counties, the 2016 suicide rate was the highest in Jefferson County, in which Madison is the largest town. The county’s suicide rate was more than double of Indiana’s average and more than three times the suicide rate across the United States.

The shortage of therapists in Madison is forcing many individuals to seek help from sources outside the town. Some community members understand the importance of doing their bit to pay attention to people and give them hope. Others are using unique methods, such as encouraging youth to play football, to steer them away from drugs, and possibly suicide. Madison is not known for its football prowess, but the aim is not to win championships. It is to focus on youngsters and prevent them from straying.

String of interconnected problems remains unaddressed

Besides drug addiction and suicide, Madison is battling other issues like depression, negligence of children and child abuse. All these issues are interconnected and simmer under the surface, but people seem to be reluctant to address them. However, there are some individuals whose indifference has given way to empathy to keep youngsters safe. They are using their personal setbacks, such as a family member’s arrest for drug possession, to motivate the community’s youth to stay away from illegal substances and self-harm.

The town’s socioeconomic situation may possibly have a role to play in shaping youngsters’ emotional health. Jefferson County is a predominantly rural area with a significantly large white population. In 2016, nearly 20 percent of Madison’s children below 18 years were living in poverty. Manufacturing is the main occupation of nearly 25 percent of the working population. Many parents are typically engaged in multiple jobs which require them to work day-night shifts.

Due to these conditions, children often lack the presence of adults they can look up to. In such situations, individuals such as football coaches and teachers step in to fill the gap. Coaches use football as a tool to build resilience and instill a sense of community among students. This support becomes critical for youngsters when they have to deal with devastating life events, such as the death of a parent or a loved one’s suicide. Sports prevent them from harming themselves or getting involved with drugs.

Preventing teen suicides

Past research found that between 2006 and 2010, adolescents and young adults living in rural communities had nearly double the suicide rate than their counterparts in urban areas, irrespective of the method used. It was previously reported that Indiana had the highest suicide rate among American teens. Between 2011 and 2015, suicide was the state’s second leading cause of death among people aged 15-34 years, and the third leading cause of death among children aged 10-14 years.

Teen suicide is a nationwide public health issue in the U.S. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), between 2007 and 2015, there was a 31 percent increase in suicide rate among males aged 15-19. Suicide was the third-leading cause of death among youth aged 10-24, resulting in the loss of nearly 4,600 young lives annually.

Adverse life situations can have a significant impact on children’s emotional health. The right guidance and help can prevent from harming themselves. White River Academy, one of the leading therapeutic boarding schools for boys aged 12-17, offers a safe environment for teen suicidal ideation treatment. Call our 24/7 helpline or chat online with one of our representatives to understand more about treatment for suicidal teens.

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