How to mend a broken nation

I start with the pain. A couple of times a week, I give a speech somewhere in the country about social isolation and social fragmentation. Very often, a parent comes up to me afterwards and says, "My daughter took her life when she was 14." Or, "My son died of an overdose when he was 20." Their eyes flood with tears. I don't know what to say.

I squeeze a shoulder just to try to be present with them, but the crying does not stop. As it turns to weeping they rush out of the auditorium, and I am left with my own futility. What can I say to these parents? What can I say to the parents still around who don't yet know they may soon become those parents? This kind of pain is an epidemic in US society.

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A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on February 20, 2019, with the headline 'How to mend a broken nation'. Print Edition | Subscribe