By Jaron Zanerhaft
November 18th marked the 33rd anniversary of the Jonestown Massacre when over 900 people committed suicide by drinking Flavor Aid laced with cyanide at the order of cult leader Jim Jones. This mass suicide accounts for the greatest number of American civilian casualties pre-9/11. Though devastating, the psychology of mass suicide does not speak to the type of suicide that claims the most tragic victims: teens. How can we prevent young adults from taking their lives of their own accord?
October was difficult this year for Agoura Hills. Within six days of each other, three Agoura High School students lost their lives, each a victim of suicide. Candlelight vigils, Facebook pages, Twitter R.I.P. notes, memorial services, and much more have honored Dan Behar, Josh Feinberg, and Griffen Kramer, all of whom had difficulty coping with the foreboding of post-high school life.
Agoura High, their alma mater, held it’s first annual Friendship Week from October 3-7 this year. The new initiative began as a response to an uptick in teen suicides from the surrounding area over the past few years. Friendship Week was meant to show teens that they are not alone. Strangely, the three Agoura Hills suicides took place roughly two weeks after Friendship Week had concluded.
The concept behind Friendship Week is that loneliness is the main contributing factor in teen suicide. One of the crew from the BTS Prevention program believes otherwise. “I think that it has a lot to do with the pressure placed upon teens,“ he expresses with genuine concern. “Families need to realize that teens need a chance to be teens and make their own mistakes. When we allow them to grow up at a normal rate, it’s possible teen suicide will decline. “ As we continue to explore the reasons for these tragedies, we hold on to hope that nothing like Jonestown or Agoura Hills will ever happen again.