So, we have had National Suicide Awareness Month and World Mental Health Day recently, and to say the lovelies and suicide are a little on my mind is an understatement. After the loss of yet another young person in our community, I was having a moment with my boss (he may have asked how I was doing at just the wrong time, lol) and I commented that I “just want to fix it”.
But suicide, and the reasons leading up to it, is complicated and layered and there is most definitely not a one sizes fits all solution. When Luke first passed away I convinced myself that if we could just get the kiddos to understand that they are loved and that the same love that exists between a child and a parent when they are living, leaves a gaping hole in our hearts when we lose that child, it would help. Perhaps, I thought, if we focused on reminding the kiddos of the love, it might save one. What I have realized since then is that my own son, despite hearing it every single day from his parents, despite having the most amazing friend group ever, didn’t understand how much he was loved. Could be part of the depression, could be a lack of self-confidence, but he had convinced himself that we were all better off without him. And I don’t know how to fix that same feeling for others.
I used to think if we focused on what gets left behind – parents and friends and teammates, for example – and how devastated an entire community is after the loss of someone to suicide, it might be enough to save one. 13 Reasons Why was airing at this time and my response was you only need 1 Reason Why Not: There is Someone who gets left behind who thought you were their whole world. Unfortunately, it is well documented that once an individual decides on suicide, it is like entering a black tunnel and their only focus is on that final act. The ability to stop and reevaluate becomes almost impossible. Based on the 2017 Youth Risk Behaviors Survey, 7.4 percent of youth in grades 9-12 reported that they had made at least one suicide attempt in the past 12 months. That statistic is STAGGERING. That is a lot of young lovelies in so much emotional pain, they feel death is the only option. They aren’t stopping to think about who might be affected. I don’t know how to fix that.
After losing Luke I thought maybe the answer was in the mental health component. My thinking was perhaps if Luke had continued to see a therapist he would have delved into the causes around his feelings of self- hatred and being unworthy of love. My thinking was maybe if Luke had been given more information around the stimulants he was prescribed for ADD he would have recognized that having suicidal thoughts can be a side affect of the drug and that quitting cold turkey can also result in suicidal thoughts. So I want to turn this around for others, but in our community there is a six month waiting list to see a counselor. SIX MONTHS. And on top of that is the issue that many of these services are not covered by Health Care plans and one family I know is paying $100 out of pocket when they take their child to therapy. Every. week. So, our mental health field needs a revamp to make it more accessible for our 15 – 24 year-olds for whom suicide is the second leading cause of death. Get me Governor Baker on the phone ’cause Houston, we have a problem. You think our kiddos are dying from vaping? Maybe the vaping, and opioids, and addictions are the numbing agents for all the pain these kiddos are in. I want to shout it from the rooftops – we need better access to mental health professionals!! According to the CDC “the prevalence of suicidal thoughts, suicidal planning and suicide attempts is significantly higher among adults aged 18-29 than among adults aged 30+”. I don’t know how to fix it.
So here’s what I need you to know: Did I mention death by suicide is one complex issue? When Luke first passed away I thought the circumstances around losing my child were unique, but now I know different. I meet parents every day struggling with raising hard kids, or navigating mental health issues for their kiddos and for themselves, or reeling from the aftermath of loss. I am not alone. But it is not all doom and gloom. We have made some progress, friends. There is at least conversation around mental health and suicide and prevention. And although I know I can’t fix it, I can talk about it. Help me keep the conversation going. Talk to your kiddos, your students, your community. It is only together that we have a chance to grow the HOPE and reduce the chances of losing our young people to suicide’s grasp. #NotOneMore