Monday, July 07, 2008

Tragic Lesson

In some parts of the UK teenagers have been shocking their communities by taking their own lives. In Bridgend, a small town in South Wales, 22 youngsters have killed themselves in the last 18 months. Now, even here in Guernsey, a 14 year old boy, close friend of someone I know, has hanged himself in despair. Tragically, his death occurred at a local beauty spot, and it is so hard to understand how such misery could be doled out in such a lovely place.

On the coffin of this young man at his humanist funeral was the insignia of a dangerous new cult - Emo. Related to the Goth phenomenon it encourages members to characterise themselves as 'emotional' and wear dark, deathly, symbols and clothes. Here's how one reporter described the movement:
The Emos - short for Emotional - regard themselves as a cool, young sub-set of the Goths.
Although the look is similar, the point of distinction, frightening for schools and parents, is a celebration of self harm.
Emos exchange competitive messages on their teenage websites about the scars on their wrists and how best to display them. Girls' secondary schools have for some time been concerned about the increase in self harm.
One governor of a famous boarding school told me that it was as serious a problem as binge drinking, but rarely discussed for fear of encouraging more girls to do it.
Although it is invariably described as a 'secret shame', there is actually a streak of exhibitionism about it.
The internet has many sites dedicated to Emo fashion (dyed black hair brushed over your face, layering, black, black, black), Emo bands (Green Day, My Chemical Romance), Emo conversation (sighing, wailing, poetry).
The Instant Emo Kit site gives advice on identity... 'show your inner despair by looking like you are too sad to eat. Obesity and emocity do not mix.'

Those of us who are parents or who care about young people need to know about this movement and be warned. If we see signs of it we shouldn't be indifferent or see it as just another passing phase. You can't lock people away from danger but you can be there for them in their insecurity and look out for ways to share their pain. Most of all, as Christians we need to share the good news that Jesus knows our darkest thoughts and loves us more than we can know - just as we are. He also loves us too much to leave us that way.

If you know someone fascinated with Emo, pray for them and try to get alongside them - or encourage them to seek help. This virus is infecting more than just computers, and families need firewalls of faith and power to protect them.