Yesterday our rural community experienced its sixth suicide in 5 months. At a recent community forum a rep from the medical examiner’s office stated that before this year the statistical average in our community was 2 per year. I’m thinking this is not the kind of progress we are looking for. Suicide is not a new occurence, but as a school counselor asked me today, when did this become the most popular option? Not only have we seen an increase in deaths, but also in attempts and ideation. And repeatedly we hear from family and friends, I never saw that coming.
Are things that much rougher now than they used to be? Yes. They are. It is a trickledown effect, what we as adults are experiencing, whether we realize it or not, so are our kids. The unemployment rate for adults has just recently went down a small percentage, but that does not mean people are getting the pay they had in the jobs they lost. They are getting the jobs that teenagers would normally get. There are very few good jobs for teens these days because adults need them and are being hired for them. Teen unemployment stats range from 29-60%. In the past I would tell parents of kids who didn’t do great in school to encourage them to find an activity or a job they can excel at to boost their self-esteem and not feel like just because school is hard for them they are a failure. But because of the economy activites are being cut and teen jobs are scarce. More pressure to succeed in school at higher standards set by the government taught by teachers whose salaries are dependent on the test scores. More pressure to get scholarships to colleges that have increased tuitions and higher admission requirements to be able to compete for fewer available jobs. Criticism from adults saying this is the laziest, most materialistic generation. Absent parents not able to connect with their kids as often because they are having to travel for weeks at a time, or commute for hours daily, or work a second job to pay the bills.
The kids are worried. And they are lonely. They are relying on their peers, as they always have, but where in the past they had the adults to fall back on to be strong when their peers were dramatic, now the adults are frazzled and dramatic too. Kids learn what they live. Are you overwhelmed by your situation? Do you drink or sleep or use pills to cope? Do you argue with your spouse because your stressed? Your kids are watching and learning.
Am I saying it is a parent’s fault if a teenager commits suicide? No way, absolutely not. But I am suggesting “do as I say, not as I do” doesn’t work. To address this epidemic, we have to start with ourselves. We ALL need help right now. We ALL need support and peace right now. If you don’t feel balanced in your life right now, you can bet your kid doesn’t either. The difference is that teenagers are naive. They are impulsive. They live in the moment. We adults have lived long enough to know that even when things suck they can get better. And then suck again. And then get better. But your kids don’t know that. Unless you tell them.
Teach resilience. Teach coping skills. Build self esteem. Tell your kid they can do anything they set their mind to. Tell them it will get better. Talk to them. Tell them you love them. Write it down and stick in their bookbag. Teach by example. Take care of you. Get help for your stress. Find balance. Don’t put all of your eggs in one basket like a job or a relationship; understand that there is more to you and more to life than one thing to define you. And teach your children this also. Things that trigger suicide are often loss of a relationship, or feeling someone is mad at them, or feeling hopeless. Bullying has always gone on but makes a bigger impact these days because teens are struggling with their depth of self. THIS is where we need to start.
Normally my blogs are more upbeat and positive and I try to be inspiring. I fear this one is dark and bleak. I AM optimistic. But we have to get serious, about the right stuff. So so so many people are overwhelmed. We might just have to grab hands and start singing KumBaYah soon because one more death is too many. “someone’s crying, Lord, kumbayah”
Suicide Web Links: