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