One of the topics I researched and discuss in my book, Breaking the Spell, is the pressure to succeed that is placed on today’s teens, and whether or not the constant focus on their future is robbing them of their youth. It’s something I witnessed first-hand and was concerned about with my two children.
Here’s a brief excerpt from the book:
Is the Pressure to Succeed Killing Our Teenagers?
“Forty-four percent of teens feel strong pressure to succeed in school, no matter the cost.”
~2006 Junior Achievement Teen Ethics Poll
According to the fourth annual Teen Ethics Poll released by Junior Achievement, 44 percent of teens say they feel either a lot of pressure or overwhelming pressure to succeed in school, no matter the cost. Also, more girls than boys feel this burden. The vast majority (81 percent) of those who feel this pressure to succeed don’t expect it to go away; they believe it will remain the same or get worse when they enter the workforce. Sadly, more than one in ten students also think they must cheat to be successful.
But if you’re concerned that cheating is the most unfortunate downside of all this pressure, consider this: according to the Centers For Disease Control, suicide is the third leading cause of death among fifteen- to twenty-four-year-olds, accounting for 12 percent of all deaths annually. In 2007, 14.5 percent of U.S. high school students reported they had seriously considered attempting suicide, while 6.9 percent reported they had actually attempted it one or more times.
Just as teen girls feel more pressure to succeed, they also are more likely to attempt and commit suicide. In 2007, 18.7 percent of teen girls considered suicide during the twelve months preceding the survey, compared to 10.3 percent of teen boys. For every teen suicide, there are approximately one hundred to two hundred attempts, compared to four attempts for every suicide among those sixty-five and older. Either teens aren’t as proficient as seniors at committing suicide or there are a lot of teens crying out for help. According to the National Institutes of Health, unsuccessful suicide attempts are very often a cry for help.
While there’s no data to support a direct correlation between the pressure to succeed and suicide, the stats are startling nonetheless. And the fact remains, happy people do not try to kill themselves.
Race to Nowhere Documentary Echoes This Concern
I recently became aware of a documentary called Race to Nowhere that shares this same concern. I haven’t had the opportunity to watch the full documentary yet (it’s currently only available via limited screenings) but I plan to view it as soon as I get the chance. In the meantime, I wanted to share this trailer from the movie, as I believe this message needs to be spread. It’s time to redefine success for our kids, and school is a great place to start.
To learn more about my book, Breaking the Spell: The Truth about Money, Success, and the Pursuit of Happiness, and get the first chapter for free, visit www.BreakingTheSpellBook.com
MSH Blog Creator and Chief Blogger Debbie LaChusa spent 25 years in the marketing industry and became so frustrated with its “be more, do more, have more” mentality that she began speaking out about it. She wrote a book entitled Breaking the Spell: The Truth about Money, Success, and the Pursuit of Happiness and created The Money Success Happiness Blog, all in an effort to help others learn how to stop chasing money, success, and happiness and instead discover the true path to a happy, healthy, wealthy life.