Signals of Distress, Signs of Hope by Craig Rennebohm


written by Craig Rennebohm

In 2017, 31.5% of high school students had experienced periods of persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness (i e , almost every day for two weeks or more in a row so that the student stopped doing some usual activities) in the past year.  The percentage of students who experienced persistent feelings of sadness or hopelessness in the past year increased significantly from 2007 through 2017.

In 2017, 17.2% of high school students had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year The percentage of students who had seriously considered attempting suicide in the past year increased significantly from 2007 through 2017.

In 2017, 7.4% of high school students had attempted suicide one or more times in the past year

In 2017, 14.0% of high school students had ever used prescription pain medicine, such as codeine, Vicodin, OxyContin, Hydrocodone, or Percocet, without a prescription or differently than indicated by a doctor.

These data from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) are one indicator of the emotional pain in our communities.

Just this past week our small Quaker Meeting sponsored a weeklong social justice camp for youth 7-11. The theme was Honoring Native Peoples and the Land, exploring the culture and heritage of this richly beautiful corner of the Pacific Northwest. The number of children who shared with us their own deep struggle of loss, fear, conflict and trauma were an unanticipated challenge.

The camp began with participating in the welcome of 30 canoes from in Port Townsend, one stop on an annual journey that brings together tribes to celebrate and share their ancient practices of healing and hospitality. Thousands of youth and young adults over the last 30 years have deepened their spirituality, begun recovery, built nurturing relationships and addressed the reality of isolation and suffering through these shared multi-community voyages. Tribes and villages have linked over hundreds of miles to lift up the best of their traditions to encourage self-discovery, co-operation and wellbeing.

The welcome as the canoes come into each landing along the way is heartfelt and deep. “It is a good day. You have arrived.”

The annual canoe journey emerged out of a profound local crisis, a calling to respond to the struggles of youth slipping into alienation and despair. No one congregation alone, no one neighborhood or community on its own can put in place the local foundations supportive of healthy childhood and human growth. We are called with all of good faith, to create emotional health at the most basic levels of our life together.
Craig Rennebohm is a retired UCC Minister and author of Souls in the Hands of a Tender God (Beacon Press), written from his own experience and 25 years of ministry doing outreach on the streets of Seattle with individuals facing homeless and mental health challenges. Craig is currently a member of the Port Townsend Friends Meeting and exploring the world of poetry.