Bet I got your attention with those words, didn’t I? Sigh. I woke up this morning full of guilt and regret over losing my boy. I wanted to reach out to Logan or some of Luke’s friends to ask if Luke thought I was a shitty mom, but no one is able to tell me what I really want to know because they aren’t LUKE. When you have lost someone to suicide, every once in a while you just have to beat yourself up over what could have been and what role you had in that person’s sadness. You look back on every situation and wonder if you had just handled it differently, if suicide could have been prevented. Because suicide IS preventable. It’s not 100%, and it may not have been for Luke, but it is preventable. September is Suicide Prevention Month, so let’s talk.
You Need to Know the Warning Signs
If you follow my blog, you know I spend a lot of time talking about what looks normal and what doesn’t with kids. Luke was about 12 or 13 when he started to go sideways. Health problems, defiance, slide in schoolwork, running away, anxiety. These were some of the changes that we noticed with Luke. The problem was we chalked a lot of it up to good ole adolescence. Maybe some of it was, but unfortunately we couldn’t discern that. I grew up with a brother who was a handful, to say the least, so a lot of this felt like we were just raising a tough kid. Unfortunately, what was happening with Luke was way outside the range of expected behavior for his age, but we just didn’t know. #IHaveRegrets. I want you to really listen here – If you think your child is acting differently compared to his or her peers and you are concerned, you need to get professional input. Your primary care physician, the teachers, a trained psychologist can all help you determine if there is something going on outside of what is developmentally appropriate and help you go from there. Trust your instincts.
You Need to Speak Up
How many times have we heard it takes a village to raise a child? Never has this been more important than during the mental health crisis we are experiencing. Suicide is the number two reason for death for adolescents. We can’t ignore this and we can’t not talk about it. I have suggested that parents should speak up if they feel their child is exhibiting any troubling symptoms, but so should the rest of us! Teachers, coaches, doctors, friends, anyone who is in contact with a young person and has a concern needs to say something. Please! We have to put embarrassment or discomfort aside in the hopes that it might save a life. Do you know no one ever suggested that Luke might have some sort of mental illness? Or that he might be struggling emotionally? Not one person. It was all about behavior. Trouble is… it’s never just a behavior. Sigh.
One of my dreams is for middle school and high schools to have teachers or teams meet once a month and figure out who these students are – the anxious ones, the reclusive ones, the behavior ones, the at-risk kiddos – and not put a band-aid on it or consequence it, but once identified, work with the families and counselors and outside therapists to get to the issue and give these students strategies to move them forward. But aren’t we already doing that, Patty? Sigh. Some schools try, but friends, school has become one complicated beast. Time and resources are needed. We TALK about placing importance on the Social and emotional needs of our students, but actions, and government dollars, speak louder than words. Somebody get me Joe on the phone! But I digress. The long and the short of it is, it takes all of us putting our eyes on the kiddos to make sure no one slips through the cracks and gets lost. #NotOneMore
When we look beyond the behavior, we finally see the battle being waged in someone’s head or someone’s heart.Patty-Anne Inwood
You Need to Ask for Help
Parents need to ask for help, teaches need to ask for help, but most importantly we need to find a way to get the person on the path to suicide to ask for help before it gets to that point. I don’t have the answer to this one, friends. All I can suggest is that, one, we model for our children what this looks like. “Dad and I are not agreeing on this subject right now, but talking it out helps so we are going to do that.” “Jane, I need you to know that I go to a therapist once a month to help me work through thoughts and feelings that are too big for me to handle alone. Therapy really helps.” One of my dreams ( I have LOTS) is that therapy hours be a requirement for graduation. You know how the kiddos need so many community service hours? I would love it if they had to have therapy hours. To get rid of the stigma because then EVERYONE is doing it.
And my only other thought is that we make *asking for help* seem like it’s everywhere. I love that St. John’s has the Suicide Hotline number on their student id badges. I love that Shrewsbury High has a program around suicide awareness and prevention for every grade. Asking for help is still seen as such a freaking weakness and it is really biting us in the a** here. It is only by leaning on one another that we get through. #HereIfYouNeedMe
Did I kill Luke? Not directly, obviously. But let me tell you, when you lose a child to suicide, you carry mountains of guilt over the actions or inactions that led to that final day. Some days you console yourself and say you did the best you could. Some days you console yourself and say you didn’t know what you didn’t know. And some days you just say… please forgive me.
Suicide is preventable. Let’s work together to make it so. #NotOneMore