‘No motive for the deed is known, as he was wealthy and popular.’
Reporting of long ago can seem…a bit, well, simplistic, can’t it? As in, what was the reporter’s thought process? Wealth? Check. Popularity? Check. So what was this Shrock fellow’s problem? What else could there have been to life?
This is from a 1903 New York Times article. Shrock, whatever his troubles may have been, was a rarity among his people. Suicide does happen among the Amish. But it seems to be less common than among the general population.
Happiness research has become trendy of late. If I had to put in my own two cents, based on what I’ve heard and observed, I’d say there are probably worse environments to spend a childhood than in a typical Amish home. And for that matter, adult Amish I’ve spoken with generally seem satisfied with their lot, despite the trials of living in the culture.
Sometimes I do sense a measure of discontent when talking with an Amish adult, for whatever reason. Yet I often hear that an Amish upbringing is the best way for a child to grow up, usually expressed with decided conviction. The Amish enjoy strong family bonds and a close extended community. There are benefits that counter the challenges.
That’s not to paint the Amish as living untroubled lives. The Amish experience mental illness as non-Amish do. There are centers devoted to mental care of the Amish and related peoples, which take into account their faith and lifestyle. And of course there are always exceptional situations.
But in a community with such a firm religious and familial focus, with nearly 100% employment, low alcohol and drug use, and marked by a strong sense of identity, I wouldn’t be surprised if you told me the average Amishman was at least as happy as his non-Amish counterpart. It probably shouldn’t come as a surprise that many Amish report being content with their lives. Or that we perceive them as such.