Yesterday afternoon, the younger boy came home from school and as I was performing my daily inquiry into how his day went, he was moving away from me slowly, getting himself towards the stairs that lead up to our bedrooms. He faced me the entire time, and after a moment I realized he was doing his best to politely get away. I thought he had to use the bathroom, since he just got home. He said, “Hang on, I’ll be right back!”
I heard him trying to locate something in his room before running back downstairs, a printed piece of paper shaped like a big bookmark held tightly in his hand, and grabbed the phone.
“I just need to make a call really quick.”
He made the call–to his girlfriend, as it turned out–asked if she had a pencil, and said, “Oh, you’re not home yet. Call me back when you get there.”
Hanging up, he said to me, “Sorry. A friend of hers mentioned to her that she was thinking about killing herself and I told her that I’d call her with a phone number she could pass on, so her friend could get help.” (He got the information from his health class this semester.)
After you pick your chin up off the floor, get ready to drop it again when I tell you that this is not the first time that my son has had a friend tell him that another friend was considering suicide.
And it’s not the second time, either.
It’s the third time.
And, in addition to those three incidents, which–so far, thank goodness–have resulted in nothing happening, there is another of note. My son wears one of those rubber bracelets that you see for every cause in the world, only this one says “Remember Dylan”. Dylan, in this case, is the friend of another friend of his, who wasn’t able to get the help he needed, in time. He killed himself last year. My son didn’t know this Dylan, but because Dylan was important to my son’s friend, he wears the bracelet 24/7 to support her.
I’m extremely distressed about this, as you can imagine. I find myself tremendously saddened for these teenagers who find themselves feeling like they have no choice but to end their lives, and also saddened that my son is growing up in a world in which dealing indirectly with suicide is “normal”, and that the suicide unit in health class is one of the major ones along with the drug and alcohol unit and the human sexuality unit.
I didn’t do any heavy duty research for this post except for a quick Google search, and found out that as of two years ago, the teen suicide rate started climbing for the first time in fifteen years. I wouldn’t be surprised if we find out later that, in 2010, it climbed exponentially higher. I just wonder exactly what is causing this to happen. Is it technology? Is it overscheduling of our kids’ activities? Is it bullying? Is it just that the pressures of day-to-day life is too much to bear? WHAT IS IT??
What I do know is that those who become suicidal need help because they reach a point at which they can’t imagine that, to coin the phrase that’s been in the news as of late, things will get better. They aren’t thinking about how much they have to offer the world or how their loved ones will never be able to fill the hole they leave when they choose to end it all.
Where teen suicide is concerned, I am really, really happy about the development and growing public awareness of programs like The Trevor Project and the It Gets Better Project, both geared towards gay and questioning teenagers, but I wasn’t aware of any general suicide prevention programs for any teen, so I did another search. One that I found is the campaign from the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, called “Suicide Shouldn’t Be a Secret”. There are other smaller programs out there, and of course the general phone number to call for help is 1-800-SUICIDE.
My mind is just blown at how major an issue this is today. I think that all I can do is to be there for my son, to support him and to keep the conversation going, and of course, I’m on it.
©2010 Suburban Scrawl
Oh man, that's scary. I don't know how you parents deal with all of the worries once you bring kids into the world.
You should be proud that your son is considered a problem-solver by his peers and that he feels free to discuss stuff like this with you.
Remember when that movie "Heathers" about teen suicide was funny? The older I get the less I can laugh at it.
So scary, so sad, so overwhelming. It's probably my worst fear. One of the kids at OU committed suicide a couple of weeks ago, a friend of Rebekah's RA. I try to tell her over and over again that nothing is worth that. Nothing.
Wow. Just wow.
As Cape Cod Turns
How great for younger boy to be so compassionate! It is sad that kids need to think about suicide and how to prevent friends from ending their life.
I wish there was a vaccine for it or something.
It is scary it is increasing and it is so real. I think that so many friends and parents are afraid to act. Because at what point do you make the life altering decision to step in, thus altering the future of the child when you know it's temporary. But the point is, if you don't step in they may not have a future. You don't lock your doors because you were robbed, you lock your doors because it's better to be safe than sorry. That's your house, do the same for a life.
Sarah, Goon Squad Sarah
That is so scary, but it is so promising that they know what to do.
The facts are scary and I think if there was a way to track attempts they would be far far higher. I personally know what a dark place that is to be. Sadly many kids who are seriously considering it, or attempt it never tell anyone. It's awesome that your son has such an amazing heart (more proof of a good mama).
As for the cause, I don't think there is one single cause but I think a combination of all the things you mentioned. I think many suicides are the result of real clinical depression that is undetected and untreated. And I believe that some of the increase comes from so many parents today just not paying attention or being afraid to upset their kids. So many parents want to be their child's best friend and forget all about being their parent.
WOW! That's some scary stuff lovey, sorry your kiddo is so closely though indirectly effected by such tragic and heartbreaking circumstances. I think it's super important that we as parents let our kids know that there is nothing wrong with being sad or overwhelmed and that though things may seem tough at the time there's always a light at the end and the end is worth the struggle. And we love them.
Proof positive that J is such a great friend and person.
This subject is so near and dear to my heart (as you rightly know.) Depression is a disease, like cancer, and needs to be treated and to be taken seriously.
This is just so sad….
This post just gave me chills. It makes me so sad to hear all these teen stories. I know its somber to say but I'm glad I don't have kids just yet. The world has changed so much since I was a kid…its very scary.
But how AMAZING is your son.
Guess it only makes sense since his mom is so AMAZING as well.
That's terrifying. Devastating. My heart is hurting.
You've got a good boy there, Melisa.
Susan Helene Gottfried
LOVE this post. Love that your son cares so much. Love that he's willing to get out there and help someone.
Sometimes, I wonder if what's going on is that our kids need bigger and better releases for all the emotional stuff than we had. They can't turn to mosh pits the way we did (and I mean mosh pits back when they were bloody and ugly — and a guy would give a hand to the guy who he'd just knocked down). Cutting is old. So what's next?
I don't know. I truly don't. Other than to say I hope other kids are like your son and that by caring, we can reach the kids who are this despondent.
This just breaks my heart. Being touched personally by suicide, I cannot even begin to explain the devastation and ruin it leaves behind. Major kudos for your son for standing up and you for teaching him to do so.
It is terribly alarming that the suicide rate has gone up so dramatically, particularly among teens.
I'm another person who's been personally touched by suicide. It's incredibly difficult for family and friends to know what to do, if anything. It's like being paralyzed with fear: you figure if you give in and admit your loved one is going to do something that drastic, you have to allow for the possibility that they can succeed – and that is unthinkable. So you just don't think about it.
And of course this adds to the hopelessness the sufferer feels, knowing that any cries for help are essentially being ignored.
With all the information and all the instant access we have these days, we have not improved our ability to keep each other going. We haven't improved on our relationships.
I'm glad your son is there, making a positive difference.
Wow, that's crazy. When I was in high school, we weren't even aware of anyone even contemplating suicide. Yet your son has dealt with it 3 times. That's very scary!!!
Obviously you've raised a great young man who is caring and thoughtful to help others in troubling times. So that's something to be proud of.
I cannot even imagine one of my kids' friends contemplating suicide. That your youngest has friends facing this tragedy, and has been level-headed and compassionate shows how well you and his dad have raised him.
Wow. Being a teenager is so hard.
Wow, so glad that your son can be a beacon of hope for his friends and indirectly for their friends. I got goosebumps reading this post, how terrifying to think of people so young dealing with these issues. I think the "It Gets Better Project" can help straight teens as well as homosexual/bisexual ones. And if there isn't one already there NEEDS to be a study to explore why the suicide rate has gone up. Knowing the contributing factors would better enable us to help these kids before it is too late.