- Associated Press - Friday, June 15, 2018

Editorials from around New England:

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MASSACHUSETTS

Cape Cod Times

June 12



Young people often find themselves stereotyped as do-nothing, apathetic slackers with a keen sense of entitlement and an inversely low sense of personal responsibility. Some among this generation say they feel jaded because of the state of the world and lament that their voices are seldom heard.

But that might be about to change.

Call it the Parkland effect, after the young survivors of the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida who have certainly made their voices heard at the local, state and national levels, working to bring attention to common-sense gun regulations. And although they have yet to significantly move the legislative needle on the national level, they seem to be inspiring and empowering a new generation of activists who are ready to make their mark in this world.

All that remains is to see if they can actually pull it off.

The numbers certainly reveal a generation poised to shift the balance. A poll co-organized by the Associated Press and the NORC Center for Public Affairs Research and MTV suggests that young people find themselves more involved in the political process today than they have in the past. Two months ago, only 37 percent of young people believed they could have even a moderate impact on the government. Today that number stands at 46 percent. Among 15- to 22-year-olds, the jump was even more pronounced, rising from 33 percent to 48 percent during the same time period.

So what happened? Parkland is part of the reason, but that would be oversimplifying it. After all, it is not as if there have not been terrible tragedies in the past; there have been dozens of school-related murders since the Columbine High School massacre carved school shootings into the American consciousness and popular lexicon in April 1999.

What was different this time, however, was that the students who survived refused to be pigeonholed as helpless victims. Instead, they seized the public megaphone that tragedy had handed to them and decided that if the adults who were entrusted with their safety could not prompt real change, then it would have to come from somewhere else; that it would have to come from them.

Thus, one month after students used their phones to live stream death as it unfolded in the halls of their school, they were crisscrossing the country, setting up marches, rallies, and meetings to create a movement for change. And although there have been several prominent voices, they have apparently favored a decentralized form of engagement, with survivors fanning out across the nation to offer first-hand accounts of what it means to live through horror. This was the approach that brought 15-year-old Natalie Breyer of Parkland, Florida, to Hyannis on March 24. Though tearful and ripped with emotion, she unflinchingly recalled the events of Feb. 14 in the hopes that sharing her story might help prevent a similar tragedy from happening yet again.

Will Breyer and her fellow survivors make a difference? In some senses, they already have. The AP/NORC poll found that only 25 percent of 15- to 34-year-olds believed that elected officials cared about what they thought. Today, that number has climbed to 34 percent. Of course, just how long that sense of trust and hope will last remains a matter of conjecture.

Consider that the same poll also revealed that like many older constituents, young people suffer from a fickle sense of focus. In March, 21 percent of young people felt gun violence was the top national issue. As other stories have begun to dominate the daily news cycle, that percentage has since slid to 6 percent.

So can the momentum sparked by Parkland’s survivors stretch into November’s mid-term elections? Will the youthful energy and spirit that has forced a national discussion about gun violence inspire a new cadre of young people to support candidates, go to the polls, or even seek elected office themselves? If so, this emerging generation may finally offer the United States something that countless other groups of young people have failed to deliver: hope.

Online: https://bit.ly/2JEyvvs

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CONNECTICUT

Hartford Courant

June 14

Connecticut has a bathroom problem.

Months ago, the state closed the facilities at its interstate rest areas midafternoon to save money. For travelers through Connecticut, it was a sign that they were not welcome - and a sign that Connecticut can’t get its act together.

And earlier this week, just days before the opening of the vaunted Hartford Line commuter railway, the state announced that the bathrooms will be locked on the CTrail cars because they are not in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act.

These are unnecessary blemishes. Especially in the case of the Hartford Line, the bathroom snafu should have been avoided.

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The root of the problem is in the age of the train cars. The state Department of Transportation had planned to use extra coaches from the Shore Line East line, but they couldn’t be spared because of high demand. So the state decided to lease coaches from Massachusetts - old coaches, with bathroom doors that don’t open wide enough to fit some wheelchairs.

The DOT had received a waiver from the Federal Railroad Administration to use the bathrooms anyway while they were being retrofitted for compliance - a process the DOT said would be completed by early 2019.

Perhaps the DOT should have been more proactive in reaching out to advocacy groups about the problem. A complaint about the situation lodged June 8 encouraged the FRA to rescind the waiver. Now all bathrooms on the leased trains will be locked (the bathrooms on Amtrak coaches, which provide about half of the service on the line, remain open).

It’s not the biggest deal in the world - some folks might have to do a little foot-tapping - but it’s an inconvenience to everyone, disabled and nondisabled alike. A little forethought might have avoided it.

And now the talk is about the bathrooms, instead of the fine service this nearly $600 million project will provide.

The DOT should redouble its efforts to get these bathrooms made available for everyone.

Online: https://cour.at/2yhX6AW

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RHODE ISLAND

The Providence Journal

June 13

Two much-admired celebrities took their lives this month, a stark reminder that emotional pain isn’t bound by class, fame or wealth. It can disable anyone among us, persuading us that our lives aren’t worth living.

Out of the self-inflicted deaths of fashion designer Kate Spade and chef-adventurer Anthony Bourdain has come another round of public discussion about the signs that someone may be contemplating suicide and how to intervene. But lest we derive too much hopefulness about that, let’s recall that similar conversations occurred after the deaths of Robin Williams, Chris Cornell, David Foster Wallace, Iris Chang and far too many others.

The fact is that depression is an illness, a potentially fatal one. And it is as egalitarian as cancer, stalking the office worker and the artist alike.

Suicide rates continue to climb, according to much-cited statistics compiled by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Suicide is the 10th-leading cause of death in this country, taking the lives of roughly 45,000 Americans each year, and the rate is rising. Suicide call centers say they’ve noted an increase in the volume of calls over the last couple of years.

Rhode Island, of course, is not immune to the damage, although its suicide rate seems to have plateaued at between 113 and 132 a year since 2013. Nobody is quite sure why, but it may be that fewer Rhode Island households have guns, which were used in slightly more than half of successful suicides in 2016, the last year for which the CDC has comprehensive statistics. Also, the state has been enjoying a relatively strong economy, with declining levels of unemployment.

Still, it is hard not to wonder if the nationwide rise stems from our drift away from the structures and institutions of the past. And here’s a sobering statistic from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention: For every person who kills himself or herself in this country, another 25 make the attempt. Many of those will try to do so more than once. Some will eventually succeed.

This should alarm us all.

Experts say the best thing friends and family members can do when someone is deeply depressed is to be present for them, hearing without passing judgment or giving advice, and perhaps offering to sit with them while they dial a suicide prevention line or accompanying them to an emergency room.

Some signs that someone may be contemplating suicide include: withdrawing from friends and activities; speaking of helplessness or powerlessness or being wronged; giving away possessions; acting recklessly and other changes in behavior. …

We should not be afraid to ask directly about suicide. We won’t encourage someone to act by asking “Are you thinking of killing yourself?” ”Have you ever attempted to kill yourself?” ”Have you made a plan to kill yourself?” ”When you say (fill in blank), do you mean you’re thinking of killing yourself?” It’s important to be clear and direct in this conversation. …

Online: https://bit.ly/2l8mnEn

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MAINE

The Portland Press Herald

June 15

When you rank states by income, Maine does not make the top 10. That’s also true when you rank the states based on the lowest cost of living.

But when you rank states based on the least affordable rental housing, you’ll see Maine right up there with California, New Jersey and Massachusetts, highlighting a problem that is much worse than most Mainers understand.

According to a study by the National Low Income Housing Coalition, a Maine renter would have to earn $18.73 an hour to be able to afford a typical two-bedroom apartment in the state.

But the average wage for a renter in Maine is $11.44 an hour.

That leaves a gap of $7.29 an hour, which is the ninth highest in the nation, according to the group.

Maine’s lack of affordable housing is not just a problem in some neighborhoods in Portland. It complicates life around the state for families trying to make their paycheck stretch far enough.

High rents force families to scrimp in other areas, like food and medical care. They agree to rent dangerous substandard housing because it’s all they can afford. And they are in danger of overextending financially, leading to evictions and bad credit ratings that make it even harder to find a place to live.

Frequent moves have long-term consequences for children if they have to change schools too often. In his 2016 Pulitzer Prize-winning book “Evicted,” sociologist Matthew Desmond explained that a lack of affordable housing is actually a cause of poverty, not just a consequence of it.

In Maine, it’s a multi-faceted problem that needs engagement on every level of government, in addition to the nonprofit and business sectors.

Under current conditions, it’s expensive to build multi-unit housing, so new construction tends to be high-rent units or condominiums. At the same time, older rental units are falling out of livable condition. Housing vouchers are available only for a minority of those who are eligible, so families can wait for years, living where they can.

The state should do more about this problem before it gets even worse. Eliminating the waiting lists for rental vouchers would be one positive step. So would issuing the senior housing bonds that were approved by voters, but stalled by Gov. LePage.

Cities and towns can use regulation to encourage construction of more affordable units, such as Portland’s inclusionary zoning ordinance, which requires developers to include affordable units in large projects or pay into a fund. Land use regulators can offer relief for developers who build affordable projects, relaxing height, parking and setback requirements.

This is a problem that all Mainers should pay attention to. Housing unaffordability is one top 10 list we don’t want to be on.

Online: https://bit.ly/2ye5n99

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NEW HAMPSHIRE

The (Nashua) Telegraph

June 12

Last week, New Hampshire Gov. Chris Sununu signed a pair of bills into law that will help to protect our transgender citizens.

The first measure bans discrimination on the basis of gender identity in employment, housing and public accommodations. The second bans therapy that is aimed at changing the sexual orientation or gender identity of minors.

Both laws will go into effect on July 8.

With the signing of these pieces of legislation, the Granite State joins its New England neighbors and 19 other states that have such laws in place.

Although New Hampshire was the last state in our region to pass such measures, it is past time to be critical of that point.

The fact is, the transgender community deserves these protections, the same protections we all enjoy.

In this day and age, it is hard to believe any type of discrimination exists. Society, in general, should be more enlightened by now, especially considering past evils in our nation’s history.

“We must ensure that New Hampshire is a place where every person, regardless of their background, has an equal and full opportunity to pursue their dreams and to make a better life for themselves and their families,” Sununu said last week.

The governor also said any type of discrimination “runs contrary to New Hampshire’s ‘Live Free or Die’ spirit.”

Indeed it does. We must all work on being more accepting of our neighbors, whether they be members of the transgender community or those of other nationalities. The wonderful thing about this country is that we truly are a melting pot where all should be welcomed.

Online: https://bit.ly/2JB1VdY

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VERMONT

The Barre-Montpelier Times Argus

June 14

There is a lot of pressure on kids these days.

Look at what hits them online and in mass marketing. They are constantly taking photos of themselves on their phones and posting them online as “stories.” It is all about how you look, where you are and what you are doing.

Of course, to some degree that has always been the case. But in the last decade, being on display - and having a say - is as integral a part of being a teenager as, well, being a teenager.

But those influences take a toll. Bullying has taken on a new form, and more kids say they feel bullied, mostly through social media. Many school-age kids say they are too scared to participate in school. And too many kids across Vermont are saying that various factors have led them to have suicidal thoughts. Or, they have even attempted suicide in the last year.

The Youth Risk Behavior Survey done for last year polled more than 20,500 high school students from 69 schools around Vermont. (They also poll middle-school students.)

What this year’s report finds is that when it comes to students’ mental health, there are serious concerns lurking.

“Both the high school and middle school surveys asked students about suicidality,” wrote the authors of the 229-page report. “The high school survey asked students about feeling sad or hopeless, intentional self-harming behaviors, and to plans for dying by suicide and actual suicide attempts. . The middle school survey focused on suicidality by asking students about suicidal thoughts, plans, and attempts.”

The statistics are troubling.

In 2017, overall, 16 percent of surveyed students, or nearly 3,300, reported hurting themselves without wanting to die. They did so through cutting or burning themselves on purpose.

From 2009 to 2015, self-harming behaviors significantly increased. Since 2015, however, fewer students reported harming themselves on purpose, the results found. That trend is encouraging, overall.

The results found the female students are nearly three times as likely as male students to self-harm.

Seniors are significantly less likely than all others to harm themselves, however, self-harming behaviors do not differ by race.

LGBTQ students are four times as likely as heterosexual students to hurt themselves, the results showed.

A quarter of students said they felt so sad or hopeless almost every day for at least two weeks they stopped doing some of their usual activities. Feeling sad of hopeless has significantly increased over the past 10 years, and since 2015.

Again, female students are more than twice as likely as male students to report feeling sad or hopeless; freshmen are less likely to report hopelessness compared to other grades, and both students of color and LGBTQ students were much more likely to feel sad or hopeless than white or non-Hispanic students.

Just over 1 in 10 students said they made a plan about how they would attempt suicide, and 5 percent of students surveyed said they had made an attempt. Following a decrease in the percentage of students who reported making a suicide plan from 1995 to 2005, students making a plan has significantly increased, the results found.

Female students are more than twice as likely to make a plan, the results showed, and 10th-graders seem to be at a slightly higher at-risk pool. More than a third of students who identified as being LGBTQ said they had made a suicide plan in the last year.

Of the students who said they had attempted suicide, female students were nearly two times as likely to have made the attempt.

Among middle-schoolers, 19 percent of those surveyed said they had felt hopeless or sad; 18 percent said they had thought seriously about killing themselves; 12 percent said they had made a plan; and 6 percent of those surveyed said they had made an attempt at suicide.

“Youth development requires multiple sources of positive influence and protective factors, these include environmental characteristics, or conditions, or behaviors that can reduce the effects of stressful life events, increase the ability to avoid risk behaviors, and promote social and emotional competence,” the report’s authors wrote. “Schools are a natural setting for youth to share in decisions that affect their lives.”

The same can be said for home and within the community. Clearly, the struggle for teenagers is real. We need to talk to our kids and help them through the rough patches. We need to listen and support. It would seem many young Vermont students need it more than we know.

Online: https://bit.ly/2yd4uNZ

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