If the growing prospect of kids indulging in drugs, alcohol, premarital sex, and Satanism isn't enough to set our societal conscience on its ear, a disturbing new statistic from the National Center for Disease Control should be:

One of every three students in eighth and tenth grade surveyed in 20 states has seriously considered suicide, according to a survey. Of the 11,000 teens polled, 25 percent of boys and 42 percent of girls said they had pondered taking their own lives.The staggering numbers reflect the growing despair and frustration among young people in the United States - kids who have to deal with issues their parents may never even have considered during their youth.

One must question how and why society has changed so drastically that youngsters would consider ending their lives rather than face their everyday circumstances.

The study says drinking and drug abuse "contribute very substantially to homicide and suicide" - two of the four leading causes of death among Americans ages 1-24.

As a solution, one researcher urged schools to implement better educational programs focused on suicide and how teens can identify friends who may be suicidal. But such superficial treatment ignores the underlying cause of the problem.

At a time when morals and values are seen as extracurricular subject matter in most school systems, teens face greater pressure in these areas than ever before.

Teens who adhere to moral conduct and abstinence from harmful substances are often made fun of and subjected to tremedous pressures by their peers, an experience foreign to many of their parents. Why has the norm changed so drastically?

Like it or not, children are shaped by the environment around them. There is the pervasive influence of television and movies that are drenched in sex and violence.

The rules of society seem to have been dismantled and many students are left adrift, without solid values to which they can cling. Responsibilities, living up to standards, dress codes, the distinctions between good and bad - all are given second place to so-called "rights."

Yet when family relationships are a priority and basic values are instilled early in life through proper example, children have a solid foundation on which to stand.

But they must not be left to stand alone, particularly when they grow old enough to proclaim independence, yet lack the maturity to realize that slavery can result from the very freedom to make tragic choices.

Even warm memories of nurturing homes, loving family members and concerned teachers and church leaders can fall by the wayside when teens are bombarded daily with valueless educational philosophies, conformist peer groups and sleazy entertainment.

There is no simplistic answer as to why so many teens contemplate suicide. Obviously their pain must be great to even consider it.

But one basic premise is perfectly clear: kids mirror the actions and attitudes of those they choose as role models - whether they be parents or other adults. Tragically, far too many kids realize that the model is critically flawed only after it is too late to select a substitute.

Whether passively tolerating moral decline or deliberately fostering it, our society has, as Walter Kelly said, "met the enemy, and he is us."