13 yr old girl kills herself. Until this, most of her middle school peers had never even heard the word “suicide”. (Multiple clients of mine who are this age, mentioned they learned what suicide was from the news about this young girl).
A few weeks prior, a high school dropout passes away but very few people attended the funeral. Most of the old classmates didn’t even knew who this person was… I wonder why they felt alone…
A month later, a student shoots himself in the bus loop one school morning, filled with depression and a sadness so deep, he wanted others to recognize that depresssion is real. Mental illness is REAL. Same day, another child commits suicide. A few weeks later, another student breaks in and attempts suicide by taking pills from the nurse’s clinic at their school. The public knows about 4, then 6, possibly 8 now? But, I personally, know of many more. How many are there really? Does the number matter? All in the same town – all in the same community that I call home – that I chose to raise my children in.
SUICIDE — WHY OUR TOWN??
Because the truth is, suicide happens much more frequently than the public knows about. Being an LMFT counselor, working in the school system, with the foster care system, and the juvenile justice system, I can assure you this is not new. This is not isolated to just big cities. It happens everywhere. BUT, kids are speaking out now. In HUGE devastating permanent ways, they are speaking out.
Many of the teens I work with or who come in for therapy after suicide attempts, all mention very similar thoughts: “I get it. Know one cares about me. But, maybe if I can help someone else, then my life would have meant something. I have no reason to live or go on in this hellhole, so maybe my death will get other parents to wake up and realize their kids need help. I just want peace and to feel better. Everyone keeps saying they (those who have committed suicide) are at peace now and aren’t having to face demons anymore. I want that peace too.”
You may be reading this and thinking, “Wow – what a sick way or wrong way of thinking”. It makes sense to them. Under all the depression, they are still kids who are searching for love and acceptance. They want others to feel loved and accepted. 20 yrs, I have worked with, studied, lived amongst, and wrapped my life around teenagers. EVERY teen has these thoughts at one point or another, “I can’t go on like this. I just want to crawl in a hole and die. I want to go to sleep and not wake up.” NOT every teen is suicidal and most do want to wake up after a terrible day. But, these are fleeting thoughts that creep in after a bad breakup, an embarrassing moment at school, failing a class, being disappointed by crappy parenting, even not making a school drama or the football team.
Most parents want to believe that this type of talk is just for the moment. They’ve given their child everything – a home, nice things, love, family. Sometimes, love and caring is not enough. Depression can be genetic or medically based. Suicide doesn’t occur to just unhappy and lonely teens. Suicide is the result of untreated depression. If your child has depression, it is not enough. They need a professional to help them cope, help them understand their thoughts, their feelings, why they are depressed and how to overcome it. How can a parent decide if their child is having a bad day or if they are more depressed than they realize? As a parent, you’ve spent hundreds of dollars on your teen’s phone, on their sports, on their hobbies. The $140-300 it costs to get a mental health assessment or evaluation done by a local mental health professional is WORTH YOUR CHILD’S LIFE. A marriage & family therapist or mental health counselor will be able to help decipher the difference. They will come alongside you as a parent to give you the tools to recognize when your child is not dealing well with the day-to-day disappointments and when they may be clinically depressed.
I want to share 4 HUGE things that parents can do RIGHT NOW to help reduce the risk of suicide and help you to reduce the risks of your teen falling into a major depression episode:
4 Things To Remember, Apart From What Society Says:
1. No matter how abusive/neglectful/loving, parents are STILL the #1 influencer in teens 14-18 yrs old. Teens will rarely admit that in person. But their behaviors & attitudes show it quite often. In therapy, one of the most common topics of conversation and healing is about their parents. YOU MATTER, mom and dad! Continue to make time for them, pull them out of their rooms to hang out with you. They will pout, they will act disgusted or mad at you. But, they WANT YOU to do this!
2. I’ve worked with teens for over 20 yrs. More recently, most of the issues parents bring their teens in for therapy is phone-related (porn, cyberbullying, suicidal talk, etc). About 90% secretly admit they are relieved their parents took away their phones (they are visibly relaxed also)…. but will rarely admit this in front of their parents. They truly do need mandated breaks. Keep their phones charging in your room after a certain hour at night. Know your teens’ passwords OR have a parental control app on it, like Secure Teen or Phone Sheriff or MM Guardian.
3. No matter how old/responsible/mature a teen is, they shouldn’t be left home alone for too many hours, too many days a week. Isolation & social media breed depression & anxiety. The #1 root cause for depression and anxiety that is not genetically based, is COMPARISON. Isolation will push teens inward & it is inticing to jump on the internet and social media. They begin to compare what they don’t have, to a public false front that others portray that may/may not even be true. Humans are social creatures. So, even if your teen is shy or introverted, they need to interact with other people face-to-face, whether that is with you, a few close friends, or making sure they are involved in a youth group or a group with common interests (clubs at school, sports teams, etc).
4. Teens need to believe in a Higher Power. We often find comfort in knowing there is someone or something bigger than us. For me, that is believing in Jesus Christ, the son of the LIVING God. Regardless of what you believe, research shows that teens who believe in a higher power are less likely to commit suicide. There is HOPE when we believe there is a future, that someone always does care, is always with us and loves us at our worst. The Holy Scriptures mention time and time again, that God will always be there. Deuteronomy 31 6, 8 say, “6 Be strong and of good courage, do not fear nor be afraid of them; for the Lord your God, He is the One who goes with you. He will not leave you nor forsake you…. 8 And the Lord, He is the One who goes before you. He will be with you, He will not leave you nor forsake you; do not fear nor be dismayed.”
The truth is: we WILL fail our children at some point or another, we will NOT always be with them, and we WILL make them feel badly about themselves, even if it’s unintentional. When this happens, we must teach our children and teens that they have Someone with whom they can always depend on and that God created them special and that they have a purpose here on Earth.
So, why is suicide hitting our town in a very public manner? Because it is our wake up call. There is a problem that we need to face, and often times, tragedy reminds us what is most important: Loving Our Children To LIFE.