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UAHC Adopts Program to Stem ‘epidemic’ of Suicide Among Youth Who Have Fallen Through the Jewish Saf

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The Union of American Hebrew Congregations (UAHC) has adopted a nationwide program to stem the “epidemic” of suicide among teen-agers who have “fallen through the Jewish safety net of family and synagogue.”

The program, believed to be the first attempt by any national religious organization to deal with suicide among young people, was approved by the UAHC’s Board of Trustees today after hearing a report by UAHC president Rabbi Alexander Schindler confirming a high rate of suicide among Jewish teenagers.

The Board, holding its semi-annual meeting here, authorized the establishment within the UAHC’s 770 Reform congregations of a new institute to be called “Yad Tikvah” (Hand of Hope) which will serve as a training, research and educational center for Reform Jewish activities to deal with teen-age suicide.

CITES TROUBLING STATISTICS

Schindler’s report, delivered yesterday, noted that suicide among adolescents has reached “epidemic proportions.” Every day, 18 young Americans kill themselves, a 300 percent increase over the past 20 years. Suicide now is the second leading cause of death among young people, after accidents, many of which are suspected suicides, Schindler said.

He noted that the suicide rate for young people was higher among college students than among those who do not attend college. “Because the percentage of Jewish youth attending college exceeds that of the general population, we must draw the grim conclusion that the suicide rate among Jewish youth is also disproportionately high,” Schindler said.

“These troubling statistics,” he said, “are confirmed by alarming reports of suicide among Jewish youth which we are receiving from rabbis, educators, counsellors and youth leaders across the country.”

In response to Schindler’s report, the UAHC Trustees established a task force on teen-age suicide to train rabbis and teachers in Reform congregations “to recognize the warning signals of this sickness,” to develop educational materials for a suicide prevention program and to devise “some means for crisis intervention on a national regional and perhaps even congregational level.”

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