Teenage Suicide is a Real Threat

This week one of my local area high schools lost two 17-year-old seniors within a day of each other. Both allegedly died of suicides. I do not know the details and I do not want to be unsympathetic to the families who are reeling from such unimaginable loss, so this blog post is not specifically about them.

Instead this is a general call to arms to parents who do not think it can happen to them. These boys are not the first teenagers to take their own lives. It happens all over the country at alarming and sickening rates. More people now die of suicide than in car accidents, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Here are some other alarming facts from Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE):

  • Suicide takes the lives of nearly 30,000 Americans every year
  • Between 1952 and 1995, suicide in young adults have nearly tripled
  • For young people 15-24 years old, suicide is the third leading cause of death
  • 1 in 65,000 children ages 10 to 14 commit suicide each year
  • The strongest risk factor for suicide is depression
  • There are four male suicides for every female suicide

My neighborhood high school has suffered a few losses from suicide in the last couple of years. All were complete shocks. Some were athletes, some were college bound, and many had friends. They were not some stereo-type portrayed in an after school special from the 1980s. They were real children born to real parents who loved them and grieved their loss. Their deaths should not be part of gossip or lore.

The current policy of schools to offer grief counseling and condolences when a child dies without being clear or open enough to call it for what it is frightens me. School officials tip-toe around using the word suicide and this is a mistake. I understand they want to protect the families and the privacy of the minors, but acting like this kind of loss is the same as the child who dies from a car accident or childhood Cancer is disrespectful and patronizing. How can other teens reach out for help, if there is a stigma surrounding even talking about what happened.

teenage suicide is a real threat

I look at my son who is about to turn 15 and I worry. I never want him to feel like there is no other answer than to take his life. I want him to love life and look forward to the future and know that things do get better. I want him to understand the devastating impact suicide has not only on the immediate family and closest friends, but on generations to come.

So, I talk to my son directly and openly. I tell him about suicide and the dark side of that choice. I do not pretend it isn’t happening or discuss it in hushed tones. I tell him I will go to the ends of the earth to help him if he ever feels trapped beneath the weight of depression. I speak of depression as a real disease that is treatable, but only if you acknowledge it and ask for help.

I watch him and monitor his moods. I ask what is happening and I check his phone from time to time. His room doesn’t have a lock and I do enter often – not because I want to invade his privacy or because I don’t trust him. I do this because I love him and I want him to know I am present. I am not some background character to his teenager years. I pray this makes the difference because suicide does not just happen to “those” people.

It is a tragedy when a child takes his or her own life and imagining that it only happens to children who are bullied or struggling with sexual orientation or naturally negative or goth or pressured by society is a mistake. It can and does happen to people of all ages across every socio-economic class. Being kind to others and teaching tolerance and understanding is only part of the solution. We have to recognize the power depression has over anyone, but especially our youth.

I pray for the families who have lost so much. I also pray that our society starts to speak up to protect our youth. Schools need to teach about the dangers of depression and the devastating impact of suicide. Children should be screened for mental wellness and authorities need to protect our babies who may be silently suffering at the hands of emotional abuse from their peers or parents. Teenage suicide is a real threat that we need to face head-on.

Have you spoken to your children about suicide?

national suicide prevention lifeline

 

About 

Nicole Dash is a writer, blogger and business owner who lives in the suburbs outside Washington, DC with her husband and four children. She started her career as a journalist and copy editor. She also managed public relations and corporate communications for a national franchise company, but in 2006 started a child care business. In 2012, she launched Tiny Steps Mommy, a lifestyle and parenting blog that quickly gained a following and connected her to an expansive group of women-owned businesses. In 2013, she started a digital marketing consulting business that focused on growing community in an authentic way. Through those connections she was inspired to open Play, Work or Dash, a coworking space that also offers onsite childcare up to three hours per day. It is where like-minded professionals pursue their business goals with the extra level of support parents desire; a place where you "bring your kids to work." She is an active member of the Washington, DC blogger community. She has been published on The Washington Post, Huffington Post, Scary Mommy, Mamalode and Pop Sugar.

Comments

comments

Comments

  1. It is very disturbing when you see teens just give up on their lives because they can’t handle being bullied. As a mom of two growing boys, I worry about them too. I agree that schools should be more proactive on educating our children on the dangerous impact of bullying, and how children should respond to bullying and deal with depression of any kind. Thanks for this post, Nicole.
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  2. Suicide is such a tragedy! I can’t imagine what families and friends go through when dealing with such a loss. Thank you for the reminder that we all need to take the time to look out for each other.
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  3. Great article and so timely! I agree, schools need to address this topic for what it is. No young man or woman should have to suffer silently and to the point where they feel there is no other way out but to end their young lives. My sons are all grown up now, but I appeal to those parents of adolescents to be more watchful of their children’s comings and goings. As Nicole states check their phones, their rooms, know who their friends are…not because we distrust but because we love them!

  4. It’s scary to think about. My kids are still young, but I definitely want to stay in tune with them when they get older.

  5. It’s scary to think about. My kids are still young, but I definitely want to stay in tune with them when they get older.

  6. .This is such an important conversation to begin. We have to allow opportunities, in safe spaces, for our child to speak about their true feelings. It starts from when they are in elementary school. My son has been bullied but he didn’t report it to me. It was by having a candid conversation with him, sparked by noticeable personality change, that I discovered what he was dealing with at school. Don’t always assume “Everything is OK.” If you suspect that your child might be dealing with stress/depression but can’t get your child to open up, check in with their siblings, as they might have confided in them or encourage your child to speak with the school counselor. .

  7. Great post because this isn’t a topic you frequently read about in blogs. It’s good awareness. I didn’t even think about the need to talk to my kids about suicide! I just thought that if I have an open and strong relationship with my sons, then that’s the answer. But it’s not, so thank you for bringing that to my attention.