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Teenage Suicide

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I am a Queen’s University graduate and my eldest son is currently studying at Queen’s. We were shocked and saddened to hear of the recent deaths last week of two Queen’s students; in fact, there have been 6 deaths on the campus this year. Even though my son and I didn’t know the students personally, we feel a sense of loss. Queen’s is a tight knit community so when tragedy strikes, the whole community feels it. What is particularly shocking is three of the deaths were suicides. How could young people in the prime of their lives with promising futures ahead of them commit suicide? Were they overwhelmed with the academic and peer pressures and the stress of being away from home? Personally, I think the answer is more complex. The reasons behind a teen's suicide or attempted suicide are complicated. What leads one person to commit suicide while others are able to find the support they need through their family, friends and professional help? Is the difference related to the availability of counseling services? OR is it based on the ability of the individual to ask for help? Could people around these students have intervened and helped them find the support they desperately needed? The father of one of the boys who committed suicide said his son had stopped going to classes, withdrawn from his peers and spent more time in his room with his door closed. Over Christmas, the young man told his parents of some academic stress but assured them he could handle the pressures on his own. My husband and I are very worried about our youngest son.  He used to be extremely social and outgoing, however, the onset of Tourettes and Bipolar changed his behaviour dramatically. Today, he spends most of his time after school in his room playing electronic games and watching television. He still attends school (most days) and is planning to go to University next year (he was accepted in to his first choice of university). Will he be able to cope with the academic pressures? Should he defer his acceptance for a year and continue to receive professional help (we are paying for him to meet regularly with a therapist)? OR will the change and independence associated with university life be good for him? Currently he hates high school where he is regularly teased about his tics (Tourettes). He is looking forward to studying his own area of interest (Gaming Programming) instead of subjects like Philosophy and English. He is excited about living in the university campus residence. I wish I had a crystal ball to help us find clarity in this situation. We are trying to support our son as best as we can but the solutions are obscure. In other words, I certainly don’t have all of the answers but I do know this; mental health issues are becoming more prevalent in our society. Depression amongst teens is on the rise. It’s an uncomfortable topic but we need to talk openly about these concerns in order to find answers. Do you know someone whose behaviour has changed drastically recently; for example, he/she has become withdrawn and uncommunicative? Have you tried to talk to them about seeking help? Fact: Suicide is relatively rare among children but the rate of suicides and suicide attempts increases tremendously during adolescence. Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), surpassed only by accidents and homicide.

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8 comments

  • I was key note speaker at a teen conference at a high school last year, while I spoke about Eating Disorders I sat in on the dicussion on teen depression and suicide. It was terrifying to listen to..and heartbreaking. As a parent we HOPE our kids feel safe and loved enough to come to us with issues they may be dealing with. The world can be a very scary place. Thanks for the article Karyn!

    Marci Warhaft-Nadler on
  • Thank you so much for your honesty Kimberly! I also suffered from depression when I was younger although not to the extent you described in your post. I will always remember and thank God for the people who never gave up on me and who made it clear they were there to help!
    It takes a lot of courage to admit you are depressed and need help. Thank goodness your friends and family were there to help! I agree with you that depression is 100% treatable even if it doesn’t feel that way when you are at rock bottom. Praying for your health and happiness!
    Best regards,
    Karyn

    Karyn Climans on
  • Great article, Karyn. Tough subject to deal with, which is why many people avoid it.

    I believe much of the problem is that with all the technology we have, we can become more and more isolated. Teens are often plugged into ipods and video games. While there is an argument that kids connect with others online, it is not the same as having someone sitting beside you sharing life.

    Parents, teachers, clergy, and the entire community need to do whatever they can to help children through these difficult and confusing times. Giving them a voice in a safe environment where they can present fears, dreams and doubts does make a difference.

    Again, Karyn, thanks for shining the light!

    Linda M. Rhinehart Neas on
  • Last week I did something foolish…perhaps I can give you a bit of perspective…the pain of depression fogs judgement and rationality. It makes you believe terrifying things. It makes you the center of the whirlwind of chaos and you only think about you. You forget that there are people out there who love you. You forget that there are resources out there. You forget that depression is treatable and temporary. All you know is the pain. I can’t describe how painful that place is. It far surpasses any pain of losing a loved one…the pain steals hope and fuels negativity. It creates a future that is bleak and inescapable.
    And it makes you feel that there is only one way out.
    It makes you believe that there is only one way out.
    It makes the irrational seem so rational and appealing.
    It is hell.
    I hit that point where I just couldn’t stand a second more. My friends and family intervened and I got help. What to say to someone who doesn’t know what to do to help? Keep reminding them this is treatable. Keep reminding them that they have worth in this world. Keep reminding them that they are not alone…in that I mean tell them that you are a call/visit/email/tweet away. Keep reminding them that you are fighting for them. Keep reminding them you will listen when they need to talk about things that are dark and scary and you’ll do so without judgement.
    Keep telling them you love them and they can beat this.
    Keep in touch every. Single. Day so they know you care…even when they push you away.
    Love them. Don’t be angry with them for thoughts or actions. Love them but hate the illness.
    Hold their hand and hug them often.
    Depression is an evil beast. It doesn’t mean we are weak or can’t handle the stress of school or work etc. We are sick just like someone is sick with cancer. We can’t help it. And never EVER tell someone who is depressed to snap out of it. A cancer patient can’t snap out of cancer nor can a person with depression snap out of being depressed.
    We need love and support.
    We need you to be strong for us.

    Kimberly on
  • Dear Marci,
    Thank you so much for your comment. When we become parents, all of us assume our kids will be happy and healthy. It’s heartbreaking to see them struggle and I can’t imagine losing a child to suicide. Sometimes it’s hard to see the bigger picture when we’re so close to the situation which is why my style is to talk openly about issues. I’ve always found people to be very understanding and supportive and it’s incredible how many people will share their own experiences with similar issues.
    So pleased to hear that the schools are encouraging open discussions about eating disorders, depression and suicide. Our kids need an opportunity to talk too!
    Sincerely,
    Karyn

    Karyn Climans on

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