Teen Talk: No teen immune from suicidal thoughts
A mentor recently recounted a story of her friend in high school. This friend, she said, was class president, prom queen and valedictorian. She was admired by her peers, respected by her teachers, and had the support of a loyal group of friends, a loving boyfriend, and a caring family.
She seemingly had it all. Yet, my mentor and a few of her friends came to realize that she had been trying to kill herself. With their support, the girl was able to open up about her issues and recover.
But not all teens are so lucky.
Even when a teen seems to be living a perfect life and “has nothing to be sad about,” what factors might push that person to contemplate ending it all? And how do family and friends cope with their sudden and tragic loss?
Teen suicide has increased drastically over recent years, becoming the second leading cause of death among those ages 10 to 24. Commonly cited causes include the academic and social pressure that high school brings, trouble at home, such as divorce, financial issues, or domestic violence, and the growing prominence of social media and the relentless feelings of inadequacy, loneliness, and depression that it brings.
The strife of a global pandemic has put additional stress on teenage backs, isolating us from friends, hindering our ability to succeed in school, and burdening us with financial qualms before we enter the adult world.
Most of these factors are out of our control, leaving us feeling like helpless bystanders watching our lives plummet toward their doom.
Teens who commit suicide are not ending the pain but unintentionally passing it on to someone else. Parents and friends are among those most affected by the loss.
One mother who lost her young son to suicide describes the loss as unforeseeable, recalling how her son “felt alone in his struggles” despite leading a seemingly content life.
One teen who lost three friends to suicide over the course of three years couldn’t stop asking herself if there was anything she could have done.
“You could have sent one more text, you could have reached out one more time. You could have gone over to their house and made sure they were OK.”
Family members and friends who have lost a loved one to suicide often find themself engulfed in self-blame and regret. If the person seemed to be thriving, you feel you should have been more perceptive and seen past their facade to help them through their struggles.
If you knew they were grappling with depression, you think you should have been more attentive to potential suicidal tendencies and done more to help them achieve a stable mental state.
However challenging as it can be, an important step of the grieving process is letting go of the “what-ifs” to find peace, acceptance, and even joy. You can never change the past, but you still have the chance to heal and help others in the present.
Maria Proulx of Ledyard is a rising senior at St. Bernard School in Montville.
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