Wait, I thought $$$$ brought happiness….not high SUICIDE rates?

 This entry was posted on Tuesday, January 8th, 2019 at 9:56 pm

In the last 14 years I have moved approximately 10 times. In no way did I ever imagine I would move 10 times, but with work and, well, life, these things happen. Because of the abundance of moves, I have gotten proficient at finding what is good/bad about certain areas, where are the best schools, jobs, etc.

When my wife and I found out that we were moving to KC I had approximately 10 months to find out all I could about the area so that we could make the most informed decision on where to move. Through copious amounts of research, we landed on Overland Park, which at the time was in the top 10 places to live in the country. (Side note, this whole MO vs KS thing is very real.) For us, it was a no brainer – great schools, relatively low crime, good jobs, nice housing, etc.

Now, 3+ years into living in Overland Park, I am struck with the question, “why are so many young people struggling in an area that offers everything that people would want?”

Overland Park possesses one of the highest socioeconomic living areas in the entire country. The ENTIRE COUNTRY, not just Kansas.  One thing that I have found consistent with so many young(er) people, they all want to be RICH because they believe WEALTH is the thing that leads to HAPPINESS. (To be transparent, in my darkest suicidal times, I too believed that if I could only be rich, then I would finally be happy.)

So, I posed the question to myself once again: why is there such a high level of sadness and SUICIDE in an area that possesses such tremendous wealth?

As a result, I reached out and posed the question below to see how others much more familiar and tied to OP would respond:

“SUICIDE QUESTION: For transparency sake I want to let you know that my family and I moved here from out of state to Overland Park for

work. I would love some of your insight. Why, in your opinion, does a place like OP (top 10 places to live in the country for many years now) also

have one of the highest teenage suicide rates in the country?”


Below is the insight I received, and thus, hope you can also receive:

·       In my opinion being in OP comes with

      o   1- a lot of isolation and disconnect from self because there is a perceived image that has to be maintained.

      o   2- there is a high level of perfection / performance that is expected especially academically and when they feel they cannot achieve the ivy

league it increases hopelessness.

·       There is a financial privilege that opens the doors to dangerous drug use that can lead to addiction.

·       Much of the problem lies in the sense of privilege / entitlement that lies in the parents and passed on to the kids.

      o   The parents have not learned to defer reinforcement, so they don’t teach their kids to either. As a result, kids get what they want (phones,

laptops, concert tickets….) without having to demonstrate responsibility to earn the things they ask for. The kids want instant gratification

so they eventually feel empty because they never learned to fill themselves up with healthy feelings. I call it the “empty bucket problem”.

The bucket has a hole in the bottom and so never fills up

·       Money can’t buy the craved emotional connection.

      o   There are spoken and unspoken expectations about performance (academics, sports, etc.) that cause relationship ruptures.

      o   Anytime life stressors overwhelm the ability to cope, a trauma occurs.

·       It’s often about the facade.

      o   Think about how hard someone has to work to keep from cracking that image.

      o   The trauma of unmet expectation is a powerful force in shaping the brain.

·       The kids look very privileged but many are privileged with “things” rather than real connection, and many of their parents are consumed with chasing their own perfection or facade.

      o   I know kids who tell their parents every day they don’t want to play a sport or whatever activity they are being pressured to do/play but that

choice is not available to them; love must be earned by perfection.

      o   I can’t count the number of times that I’ve had a kid or teen I’m seeing who says, “My mom/dad acts like everything is perfect around other

people” or “It doesn’t matter if I tell him/her, nothing will change.”

      o   Lack of connection every time, from my perspective. Time spent together can be high, so parents perceive that as connection, but there isn’t

emotional depth, nor conversations around emotional exploration. Friendships are often lacking in depth and a teen may have 100 friends

but no one to really talk with about feeling low or hopeless, because it doesn’t fit with the image they’ve been pressured to hold.

·       A lot of academic pressure.

      o   Straight A’s were expected. It wasn’t a question of if you were going to college, but where and on what scholarship.

      o   Kids are pushed into more and more advanced classes, classes the kids aren’t ready to take. With it being a middle/upper middle-class type

area, lots of homes have two full-time working parents, so students have a lot of time alone.

      o   There is a lot of pressure for students to be involved in after school activities (sports, dance, etc.). So, some kids have a lot of time home

alone while others never have any down time, both can be hard on a teen. Now with social media the way it is, teens are seeing the internet

version of people and are losing the ability and desire to interact with real people in person. They feel this expectation to be the social media

version of themselves in real life because that’s what they think others are really like. Add in normal teen life struggles etc. to all of this.

      o   There is also the suicide ripple effect, where once someone you know has attempted/completed others are more likely to attempt too.

·       Homophobia from right wing Christian groups may be a factor

·       I spent time pondering this question after reading this morning and found it to hit pretty close to home for me after growing up in Blue Valley from

Elementary school through High School.

      o   There are several really great ideas presented by several people on this thread, however, my experience causes me to consider a bit more of

a holistic hypothesis.

      o   The simple conclusion…. relationships. While it is true that there is an appearance of abundance leading to drug use in many parts of

Overland Park, there is also prevalent drug use in many neighborhoods lacking financial abundance, and instead of suicide, those children

end up dying at the hands of another, become incarcerated, or work hard to do something different with their lives.

      o   In many homes within Overland Park, children are given everything they need (and more), but not all homes…. I believe it’s important to

note why parents feel the need to give their children money and things. In addition, consider why those children feel the desire to use those

things and money to boast an appearance which embodies pretentious bliss.

      o   I want to be careful to not lump all financially successful families into this category, as that would be unfair and assumptive. However, if

parents in Overland Park feel the need to give their children everything they want and more, what do their relationships look like within the

family system, and most importantly, how is that trickling down to their children? Do the kids get their time or just their money?

      o   In neighborhoods filled with poverty across KC, there are families struggling with drug use, death, and heartache. Those kids are also VERY

unhappy and many times it’s my hypothesis that it is because of the lack of a loving relationship they have with their parent(s) or adults that

have committed to care for them. In Overland Park many adults crave wealth and success to fill their cravings for happiness in life and in

other areas of KC, adults may seek to fill happiness with other things which don’t yield an abundance of financial return. Either way, I

believe that as adults we often times are spending far too much time addressing the things we crave and want and not near enough time in a

relationship with the little hearts and minds that desire a relationship with us.

·       Money can’t buy happiness is true.

     o   The book called Book of Joy is amazing and talks about lasting happiness.


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