Three years ago my brother took his own life. For him it became the only option he could imagine that would end his depression. He left behind many grief-stricken friends, family and relatives who still struggle to understand.
We’re far from alone in our grief.
Tonight somewhere in America a mother buries her head in her pillow as she sobs out her grief to the heavens. No one can console her. It’s fruitless. Her son, the one she loved and protected like a mother grizzly protecting her cub, is gone.
Using forethought and planning, he ended his life by his own hand, leaving behind only a note to explain. In between the gut-wracking sobs, this mother attempts to puzzle out the moment, the day, the month, when her beloved decided to leave her behind.
Tonight, there’s a mother somewhere wondering what clues she missed. There’s another who wondered if she should have done something differently. Another knew it was hopeless from day one. It stalked her family and her son didn’t stand a chance.
The causes of suicide are multitude; addiction, mental illness, clinical depression, and an overwhelming absence of hope. It’s a bigger problem than you might think. It’s sad that in our nation, that’s so very blessed, almost 34,500 people choose to end their lives.
That means that every 15 minutes of every single day, someone is taking a life. It just happens to be their own. And in their wake the suicides leave a tsunami of grief. Unfortunately there are many age groups that are impacted by this phenomenon, but statistically it is the second leading
cause of death for college students. Many colleges are frightened by that last statistic and are attempting to stem the tide of suicidal thoughts and actions on campus.
A group in California called Active Minds created an exhibit they call “Send Silence Packing” which includes 1,100 backpacks representing the number of college student lives lost to suicide each year. Each backpack has a picture and a story of the student whose life was ended so very early.
One of the tragedies of suicide is that many never talk about their suicidal thoughts and actions and to reach out to the right groups for assistance. Some suicide prevention groups are even initiating text-messaging calls for help since many in the college aged group are more likely to text someone than to make a phone call.
One of the benefits of an event like “Send Silence Packing” is that students realize they’re not alone in their struggles with these feelings. Because of societal stigmas, many never indicate they’re having an issue and so community members, relatives and even family members are blindsided by a suicide event.
So many societal stigmas have been uncovered and brought out into the light that it’s definitely time to start talking with your teen about this topic. If suicidal thoughts aren’t impacting your son or daughter, they may have a friend that struggles.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, after surveying high school students they found that 60 percent said they had thought about killing themselves. That’s 60 percent of the young people sitting in classrooms tomorrow.
Even more shocking was that almost 9 percent indicated in this same survey that they’d actually attempted a suicide.
This sounds like an epidemic to me. People talk with their children about the birds and the bees and passing out condoms, but they should also be talking about the facts of suicide prevention. And, arming themselves with all of the information they can get their hands on so they never have to stand, shaking hands next to a casket.