I'm forgoing my usual blog schedule to discuss something that has been on my mind lately. It seems like every time I turn around I'm seeing videos, reading stories, and hearing news of another teen suicide.
IT HAS TO STOP
Most of you who have followed my blog for any amount of time know that I have a background in mental health. Consequently, I'd like to say right off the bat that the fact that I have a master's degree in counseling does not make me an expert, nor do I claim to have any special insight into the why and how of these tragedies. I'm not giving out advice or analysis. Now, let me get right to it.
I work with teenagers, and have for a long time. I have teenaged nieces and nephews that I love like sisters and brothers. I was, at one point, a teenager. It's a hard age. There are so many things pulling at you. Love. Sexuality. Education. Family. Expectations. Identity. On and on it goes. I think what makes it so hard is that, at such a young age, you feel like you have little to no control over any of it.
LACK OF PERCEIVED CONTROL OFTEN TRANSLATES TO HOPELESSNESS.
Ask any adult, and you'll know that we feel the same things. The difference? As adults, we've lived long enough to have perspective. All of the bad stuff will pass. You understand that what looks like a dead end today can be a wide open road tomorrow. As you live, you see that some of your best moments have come from some of your darkest hours.
While this all sounds fine and good, here's the reality:
NONE OF WHAT I SAY MAKES A DIFFERENCE UNLESS SOMEONE WHO NEEDS TO HEAR IT, HEARS IT.
A typical approach to preventing teen suicide is to appeal to the demographic. In the end, it is a personal choice. However, I'm going to take a different approach. I know that most of the people who follow this blog work with teens, are interested in writing for teens, or otherwise have a vested interest in the lives of young people. So, I'm going to ask, challenge, and beg you to take a stand. You can make a difference.
The next time you see bullying, intervene and stop it. The next time you see a quiet teen, ask them how their day has been. When you see the awkward kid at the mall wearing too much black, smile at them instead of shaking of your head in disbelief. Instead of assuming that you have nothing in common with a teen, take a few minutes to find out.
THE GREATEST ENEMY WE HAVE IN THE WAR AGAINST TEEN SUICIDE IS SILENCE.
I'm certain that we can every one of us make a difference. The thing that should keep us all up at night is knowing that you can never be certain when you'll make that difference. After all, if we could easily identify teens that are likely to harm themselves, we wouldn't be having this discussion.
So I challenge you readers to go to your own blogs, your own schools, your own community, and your own homes and become an activist. Let teens know that it's not okay, that they will be missed, that there are alternatives, and that there is hope. Let adults know that it's okay to speak up, and that it's okay to approach teens.
I didn't write this to make anyone feel bad, or to place blame. I just finished reading a post from a fellow blogger/follower who is trying to cope with a suicide at her school. (Please stop by her blog to offer your support.) Not 3 days ago did I watch the video I've posted below. Teen suicide is an epidemic, and sadly I think it's one we can prevent.
The following video absolutely broke my heart. It addresses one aspect of teen suicide, bullying, but I think the message needs to be heard by everyone.