For the last twenty minutes I have been struggling with the question of how to open this post on teenage suicide. It seems that there is just no easy way start.
The Centers for Disease Control estimate that suicide is the 10th leading cause of death in the United States (7th for males). Chances are you have known someone who died by his or her own hand.
My paternal grandfather took his life long before I was born. He had seen the horrors of war up close as a naval office on a World War II hospital ship. He was of an age when men are at increased risk for suicide and had access to a firearm, as did nearly all men of his generation. Although he had recently entered a second marriage, it is said that he still mourned the ending of the first.
we can never fully understand a suicide. But there is a way in which my grandfather’s death made a certain sense to those who survived him. We cannot say that about a teen who kills himself.
All suicides are tragic for those who loved the victim. But the suicide of a teenager is tragic for us all – first, because of the lost potential of a life not fully lived, and second, because it feels so preventable.
It is a shame that we have such difficulty talking about a subject as important as teenage suicide, precisely because it is preventable. That is why I am in such awe and admiration of Holly Hinds, a Weston mother who lost her teenaged son Chris to suicide. She has written about the experience in a recent article appearing in the Weston Forum, Weston mother’s advice: Before college talk to teens about mental health issues
I do not know how any parent processes the loss of an adolescent or young adult to suicide. Yet it is the third leading cause of death for young people aged 15-24, and the second leading cause for college students. Young people are vulnerable because they may not have developed the skills and experience to deal with life’s disappointments that most of us survive and eventually learn to live with.
Holly’s article drives home the point of how important it is to talk with our sons and daughters about mental health and how they and their friends can stay safe through life’s upsets and tribulations. As a parent myself, I have done this with my own children: Off to College: A Mental Health Checklist for Parents of First-Year Students
Even though I have worked in the mental health field for many years, I still find these conversations difficult to have. But after reading Holly Hinds’ article in the Weston Forum and learning of her work in advocacy and family education, I am reminded how important it is to have them. As she states so eloquently in the article “my life lesson has been that of how to transform the loss of my son into something positive that will help others.”
Thank you Holly, for your courageous efforts to make the unspeakable spoken, that other lives may be saved. And thank you for your recognition of Laurel House and rtor.org as we strive to do the same!
Call your doctor’s office.
Call 911 for emergency services.
Go to the nearest hospital emergency room
Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255) to be connected to a trained counselor at a suicide crisis center nearest you.
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