Source: Sherman Publications

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Editor's column
Time to act

November 23, 2011

I attended a funeral last week that was unusually sad.

When you attend such an event, you typically are both mourning and celebrating the life of someone who has lived a long time.

Unfortunately, this funeral was filled with way too many young people from our community, devastated by the death of one of their own, who took his own life.

Unbelievably, another Lake Orion grad who I did not know committed suicide a couple days after my friend's son.

Everyone young and old at the funeral I was at had questions about why this happened, but there were no clear-cut answers. Nobody can really explain the suicides here amongst our young people in recent years.

I think multiple factors influence such fateful and permanent decisions, no matter who the person is or where they may have lived.

People more knowledgeable than me about suicide tell me they almost always involve some combination of substance abuse, emotional disorder and/or family crisis. In some cases, bullying plays a role. The fact is, they say, suicide impacts every community to one degree or another, but maybe it has a greater effect on smaller, tight-knit towns like ours where so many people are closely connected. I guess we take these situations really personal.

Rather than simply reacting to another such death of a young person in our community, it is time everyone in Lake Orion embrace a more proactive approach to dealing with this horrible dilemma. Our schools have been wrestling with the challenge for a long time, but this responsibility should not fall solely on their shoulders.

Teachers and counselors are just part of the solution. Our young people's families, friends and neighbors also must play a role. We as a community can make a difference.

There are a number of organizations that are already trying to address issues like youth substance abuse and depression in Lake Orion and other nearby communities. These include the North Oakland Community Coalition, 1,000 Conversations in Lake Orion and MINDS, among others. Their goal is to work with schools and communities to keep our children out of trouble, help them cope with adversity and, most importantly, keep them alive.

I also have been told that Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson, dismayed by what has transpired in Lake Orion in recent years, is committing "whatever resources are needed" to address the situation from a county perspective. Representatives from his office are reaching out to the organizations above and others to offer the county's support and lead the charge. Word is the townshp is planning something, too.

It is time every citizen in Lake Orion who can , do the same. We all give money to various booster clubs, civic organizations, churches, youth sports teams and other groups all of which deserve support. Many of these entities probably do funnel some financial resources to organizations that deal with troubled youth. But I would bet they are still underfunded or, at the very least, undermanned.

I firmly believe there is no greater asset to this or any other community than our young people, for they are our future. Every child deserves a shot at living a full, productive and happy life. Kids sometimes get sidetracked and need help before it is too late. Rather than sit back and count on others to address the situation, let's open up our wallets and, more importantly, our calendars to make a direct, personal difference in helping curtail this horrible trend.

I do not think any of us want to attend more funerals like we did last week.