What Do I Even Say? Stopping the Teen Suicide Epidemic

What Can I Even Say-This morning I found out about something that rocked me to my core, in several ways, for several reasons. A girl I’ve watched grow up over the past near-decade took her life before school today. She was super sweet, and her Mom is an absolute doll. Her Mom and I moved into the same neighborhood at the same time (within a couple of months of each other) and were both hugely pregnant with boys. Our boys grew up (literally) playing together and climbing the fence our yards shared to hang out. I can always remember the daughter being bubbly and sweet whenever I saw her around the neighborhood and that she loved animals so much that she started a dog-walking business when she about 10. She went around to each door and told the neighbors about her new business and even had little fliers printed up to hand out. I know that this girl went on to be a cheerleader and a very loved, positive influence in her school, but I also know that she dealt with depression. Her Mom and I discussed it at-length about a year ago, around the time my family was getting ready to move out to the country where we now live. She wanted to know if I had any psychologist recommendations for her daughter following a Facebook post of mine where I asked for recommendations on a therapist for one of my own children. Knowing that I’m very outspoken about mental health, I guess she felt comfortable to talking to me, and I’m so glad we had that conversation. She revealed that she was worried that she had passed on her own depression issues to her children, which is a huge fear I wrestle with every day. I worry that I’ve genetically set my children up for a life of misery and failure knowing the demons I personally battle daily and do my best to keep under control, and I think is likely a fear that many parents who suffer from mental illnesses grapple with.

My heart breaks for them; I’m devastated that they will perpetually have a hole in their hearts and their family pictures where she should be but will not from now on. Selfishly I’m terrified that the same thing will rock my family one day if mental illness gets the better of one of my precious children; as a mother I cannot wrap my head around that kind of pain. I know that God heals all, and that He will carry them through this nightmare and beyond, and I try to take comfort in the same promise for my own family, but sometimes it challenges my faith. She was a sophomore in high school… A 10TH GRADER. Her entire life stood before her and she left, leaving behind so many people that loved her and thought the world of her.

As I wrestle with how to help her family, knowing that I haven’t gotten to see them much over the past year since we moved, I’m trying to decide just what to do or if doing anything would even help. One thing I know in all of this is that it’s revived within me a need to spread hope and love everywhere I go. I want people to know that in Jesus there is hope and that His love is the only thing that doesn’t pass away; it’s eternal and unwavering. Covering them in prayer and love and encouraging others to do the same is all I know to do, so I’m doing it.

I want to find a way to promote mental health screenings and proactive counseling efforts among children and teenagers, although I’m not quite sure how to do that or what my role would be in any of that. There have been multiple teen suicides in our area over the past few months, and it has to stop. I believe that pressures that teens deal with now are even greater than what I dealt with less than 20 years ago as a teen, and I want to prepare my kids for what they will face as well as I can. It feels like the uptick in bullying awareness and substance abuse awareness in that age group is helping to an extent, although I haven’t researched that, but it makes me know that mental health awareness needs to become forefront in the teen demographic.

How do I tell my kids about this? I don’t WANT to discuss suicide with them, but the reality is that they will hear things at school, TV, the radio and everywhere else, so wouldn’t I be remiss to not discuss it with them? To let them know that NOTHING is EVER bad enough to end your life over? I want them to know that I will support and help to guide them through whatever they encounter… I want them to trust me… but I don’t want to steal their innocence and blissful ignorance of such tragedy. Part of me wants to take them to her funeral so that they can mourn the loss and be there for her brother that they have grown up with, but also to show them the fallout when someone takes his or her life.

Please pray for this family… I’m not mentioning names because I feel like it’s not my place to do so… but please please please pray for them. And do your best to be aware of others living in the crippling darkness of depression… be kind to them and encourage them. Give them hope. I’ve done long periods of time in the pits of depression hell and I can tell you that it’s hard to see past the misery as it bombards you from every angle.

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