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Helping teens choose life

WITH rashes of teen suicides, and suicide attempts, in the news again, thoughts turn to the question of how to prevent these tragedies. Part of the answer is that young people need to be needed. Gone are the days when youngsters automatically took their place on the family farm as soon as they were old enough. Teens need meaningful activity, something to bring them out of themselves -- perhaps even by taking part in counseling programs to learn how to help keep their friends on track.

Young people need to be listened to when they want to talk about their troubles, particularly at a time when ``groupthink'' might push them into desperate actions in imitation of their schoolmates.

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Somehow, despite all the ``openness'' in our society, and the hot lines and counselors, there are still those whose private miseries seem sealed hermetically in glass bubbles. ``Why couldn't he talk to his friends, if he was that desperate?'' a Massachusetts teen asked her mother after one of her schoolmates had taken his life.

Friends, family, teachers, and church people need to find ways to break those seals. Teens should be helped to see that the support of family and friends is there. They should also be encouraged to understand God's love for them.

And to all you teen-agers out there for whom high school seems like a life sentence, we say, hang on. The problems don't go away overnight, and one of the important lessons -- not an elective -- is persistence.

But it does get better. The roller coaster straightens out. People grow up, including yourself. Many of the schoolmates who seem to be such creeps today will turn out to be people you're glad to have in your life. Adults will start to treat you better, and even your parents may mellow out and decide that the state of your bedroom closet isn't worth calling out the National Guard.

There is a place for you, and you can find it. You may not blow the world away as an internationally famous rock star, or dazzle everyone you know as the youngest millionaire in town. But you will find that the satisfactions of what you do achieve can have a depth beyond what you can imagine today.

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