Suicidal Impulsivity AND Romeo AND Juliet Essays Example
Harvard researchers recently conducted a study that scanned teenage brains looking for differences from adult brains that may explain teen impulsivity. The study concluded that teenage brains, particularly the frontal cortex are not fully developed, and “don't have the neural structure in place, the adolescent cannot really think things through at the same level as an adult"(Packard). This leads to lack of discretion and inhibition, impulsivity, social anxiety, heightened emotional response, and an inability to understand the consequences of actions (Portner). It may also explain why Romeo and Juliet decide that they are unable to live without each other, and commit suicide.
The statistics on teenage suicide are startling and portray a problem of near epidemic proportions. According the Center for Disease Control, more American teens die each year from suicide than cancer, heart disease, AIDS, and most other diseases combined. The teen suicide rate has tripled in the past 30 years (“Teen Suicide Statistics”). Almost everyone experiences periods of profound sadness, frustration, anxiety and grief. However, some become hopeless and make the decision to commit suicide. Research has shown that many teens who commit suicide suffer from mental illness, substance abuse disorder, or a combination of these factors that contribute to suicidal ideation (Portner). This means that some teen suicide can be prevented with mental health treatments.
However, teens often have self-destructive actions and emotions. In Romeo and Juliet, both characters are overly emotional and impulsive. Romeo is the definition of a sensitive neurotic with a poetic nature. Juliet leads an extremely sheltered existence, and is not in touch with reality. More than anything, they are impulsive, and their actions are not well planned. Romeo falls in love with Juliet immediately, without even knowing her. Their families despise each other, and the tragic love story involves two people who allow their emotions to overwhelm their decision making ability. They are also rebels, and part of what they love about each other is that their relationship is forbidden and dangerous. One psychological researcher called their love and relationship a “death trip” and examined the ways the “maladjusted teens” used their relationship like a destructive and addictive drug, and when separated they go into withdrawal and eventually kill themselves (Peele).
Furthermore, Romeo may have been suicidal even before he met Juliet. At the beginning of the play, he is having fun with his friends, but expects to die from some unknown misfortune:
I fear, too early: for my mind misgives some consequence yet hanging in
the stars shall bitterly begin his fearful date with this night's revels and
expire the term of a despised life closed in my breast by some vile forfeit
of untimely death (I, iv, 106–110)
Romeo is a unbalanced and wants some tragic circumstances to add some romance to his life. He is also what we today be considered a “drama queen,” blowing everything out proportion for dramatic effect.
Shakespeare is fiction, and teen suicide is sadly a part of real life. Unlike Romeo and Juliet, many teens who commit suicide come from abusive and dysfunctional households. The only aspect of the play that can shed light on the modern societal problem of teen suicide is the impulsivity displayed by Romeo and Juliet. Research has shown that teens are overly emotional and impulsive because their brains are not fully developed. This may play a role in the decision making process that leads to suicide. A recent PBS documentary, ‘The Silent Epidemic” actually focuses on the ways teenagers hide their emotional and mental health issues from family, friends and health practitioners. Most teens who commit suicide are not star-crossed lovers, but individuals experiencing profound problems that they do not feel have a solution. Suicidal teens need medical support, mental health care, substance abuse treatment and other forms of support. They also need to learn to control impulsivity, and to think long-term about their problems. This can involve problem solving, conflict resolution, and even methods like Zen meditation or yoga, that encourages mindfulness and discourages impulsivity and suicidal ideation. Like Romeo and Juliet, it is important for teens to know that their problems are not the end of the world.
"National Suicide Statistics at a Glance." Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 Dec. 2014. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
Peele, Stanton. "Romeo and Juliet's Death Trip: Addictive Love and Teen Suicide." Psychology Today. N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015.
Portner, Jessica. One in thirteen: The silent epidemic of teen suicide. Gryphon House, 2001.
Shakespeare, William, and Richard Hosley. The Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet. New Haven: Yale UP, 1954. Print.
"The Silent Epidemic." PBS. PBS, n.d. Web. 23 Apr. 2015. <http://www.pbs.org/thesilentepidemic/program.html>.