How To Understand Teen Suicide
School has gone back for another term and while we may hear grizzles and grumps from our kids about returning to the school yard, we parents clap our hands with glee.
However there is one family that is enduring unbearable pain and suffering.
The loss of a child is just something I cannot even bear to think about. The all consuming pain that parents feel must be unfathomable.
Just before school went back, a girl at my daughters high school decided that things were just so bad in her life and she horrifically made the decision to end her pain.
I’m not going to go into any detail about the how’s and when’s, but I am going to concentrate on the why’s!
Life for a teenager is hard, very hard.
I believe it is harder and more complicated now than it has been in previous generations.
I don’t think school life and indeed school work was as difficult and the pressure and expectation was certainly not as great in times gone by.
We had the ups and downs of friendship battles and everything else that teenagers seem to cope with, but it was handled and dealt with in a very different way and there was an escape.
I for one had to contend with bullying at school and some days it was absolutely relentless. But at the end of the day. I could go home to a safe refuge where I knew that they could no longer hurt me and I had a reprieve…until the next day.
Today with social media practically ruling every teenagers life, there is no escape.
They bring the bullies home with them, they carry them around in their pockets on their mobiles and other devices. We all say ignore or block them, but to a teenage girl, that is easier said than done.
There does seem to be however, a ‘no tolerance’ bullying program in most public schools these days. Schools are far more involved in the personal lives of their students and a harsh line seems to be taken with offenders.
No longer do teenagers have to just “put up” with a bully, with most year advisors, school counsellors and schools in general prepared to take a harsh line and punish the bully, even if the bullying is occurring on social media, in the relative safety of the students own home.
This week has seen my daughters high school bring in extra counselling for every student in the school. In fact every student, whether they were friends, whether they knew her or not, were all required to speak to a counsellor.
Every family was sent home a letter advising parents what had happened and the services available to their daughters. I must say I have been very impressed with the way the school has handled this very delicate, horrible and distressing matter and their sole concern has been the welfare of all the girls.
What I have trouble coming to terms with is, what could possibly be happening in this young girls life, to make her feel like she had no other course open to her.
What is that saying? “Breathe, its just a bad day, not a bad life”.
Teenagers seem to live for the here and now.
Who knows what this girl may have grown up to be. She may have had the most fulfilling life and experienced so many wonderful things, but I guess now we will never know. She will never realise her full potential, we will never know what her life could have become.
The analysis of all of this this week has led to me asking some pretty tough questions.
Would I recognise the signs in my own child if she were this close to the edge? Or would I be oblivious like so many other parents who have gone through teen suicide?
Do we really know if our teenagers are happy? Or are they putting on a positive front, just for their family and friends?
What life struggles may tip them over the edge? How do I handle it if they break up with their boyfriend/girlfriend? Are they going to be ok if they have a fight with someone at school? Is it going to break them if they fail a test? Can they handle the pressure of the HSC? Will they tell me if they are struggling?
This situation prompted me to sit down with all my girls and have a talk with them, I mean literally have a talk with them.
We have had some things going on in the family lately that has totally thrown us into disarray. There has been many tears shed and I have been wondering whether in fact the girls were coping.
Our situation had me quizzing my girls on the state of their lives, until one of them said “don’t worry Mum, I am ok, REALLY!!”, in an exasperating tone. Obviously I has asked this question one too many times, but how do you truly know? It’s terrifying!
So what signs should you be looking out for in your teenager if they are prone to depression and anxiety and in fact may need some professional help.
- Dramatic behavioural and emotional changes from one day to the next. Sounds like a hormonal teenage girl to me….
- Giving away their personal possessions.
- Signs of depression, moodiness and withdrawal from the family.
- A recent breakup with a boyfriend or best friend, or conflict with parents.
- Hinting at not being around in the future.
- Increased alcohol or drug use.
The thing is, you look at any one of the above warning signs and they could pretty much be discounted as typical teenage behaviour. I mean what teenager isn’t moody, hides themselves away in their rooms or has conflict with friends and family?
We all joke about the typical teenager, how overnight they become argumentative and sullen at times. Preferring to hide out in their rooms, I mean gawd they could be doing anything in there and how would we know?
How do we truly know when “typical teenager” behaviour morphs into something we parents should be paying closer attention to, or taking note of a bit more seriously?
If you have the answer, please let me know, because this shit scares the hell out me.
As the girls school mates prepare to farewell their friend this week, please, please hold your teenagers close.
Listen to their troubles no matter how trivial they may sound to you. Ask them about their day, REALLY ASK THEM and wait for a response.
Enjoy the wonderful young people they are growing into and appreciate each day you have with them.
If you or someone you know is struggling with depression, please contact these resources.
Do you think you would recognise the signs?