I’m just trying to save lives, but I’m handcuffed. It breaks my heart, and leaves me feeling set aside.

Youth suicide is epidemic, often the second leading cause of death for those between 15 and 24. No one understands why, and there are many valuable efforts to curb the onslaught. But what we are doing is clearly not enough.

As I have traveled the country, speaking to anyone who will listen, I have begun to focus on the disconnect between our elders—those we always looked upon as our wisdom keepers—and our youth—those I might call apprentices on the human journey. In the skilled trades, apprentices learn from those most experienced; those who have learned their craft through myriad successes and plentiful failure. In life, the masters are those who have deep experience in being human. They have traversed the paths of joy, heartbreak, creation, devastation, love and pain. They know the profound wisdom that comes from living…and only from living.

I recently proposed a gathering of elders and youth for a period of dialogue. My hope was to help our apprentices learn that, in spite of the tremendous pain life can provide, if we travel with others who can help us tease it out, on the other side is joy, wisdom and beauty.

The plan was to bring youth into local retirement communities. The elders are there, and they typically have access to comfortable venues in which to share hopes, fears and dreams.

What I came to discover is that these organizations simply will not allow such meetings to take place. The legal and insurance liabilities are simply too high.

Allowing youth, some of whom may be at risk, into the facility is considered too great a risk should something untoward happen. I get it. I really do. I certainly do not want anyone harmed. But I also believe that real life has risk embedded in it. If we refuse any kind of risk, we leave great wisdom behind.

The second reason is more personal. I have no credentials to facilitate the dialogue. 3000 hours on a suicide hotline and 11 years with teens at Operation Snowball are admirable, but not credible. This too I understand. But it hurts.

I’ll get over it. I will find others ways to combat the epidemic if youth suicide, but for now I am going to honor my broken heart.

12 thoughts on “Heartbroken”

  1. Thank you Roger. For caring, for trying. I share your disappointment that such a bold plan was not welcomed out of fear. My prayer is that you will be able to find a way to put this wonderful plan into action. Could it be done with youth at risk in the school with adult volunteers?

    1. School districts, especially with youth at risk, are going to be loath to have uncredentialed people running the sessions.

  2. The way you described your hope of bringing younger and older generations together to help and comfort each other at our last Socrates Cafe gathering is really such a wonderful inspiration, Roger. I guess one of the ways to succeed might be to find a person or group that does have the credentials to satisfy such stringent legal requirements? It is so gratifying to know that someone I know if even interested in such a worthwhile venture as this. Please, don’t let this deter you from this vision. Good luck.

  3. Like I told you, I’m not giving up yet! I still have some thoughts and ideas and I am going to see if one of these may work. You inspire me and give me hope! I am thankful for you!

  4. Sorry for the roadblocks. I know your heart is right and your desire admirable. Life is never fair….but please do not let yourself get too paralyzed….. The squeaky wheel gets the grease….maybe there is a smaller one on one approach. Or maybe this too has not worked…. But I have faith in God and your desire to make a difference… I believe you will find a way!!

  5. Roger, you are a beautiful soul. I can understand your heartbreak. Allow yourself to walk through it with self-compassion. I hold you in high esteem. Maggie

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