THE LOSS OF OUR FUTURE - TEEN SUICIDE
No one likes to think of having to mourn oneís own child. It is not supposed to happen that way. The natural order of the circle of life is that the parents pass on and the children carry on the family name. We as a society shun the word death and substitute niceties such as deceased and departed.
As a counsellor of youth I have been most fortunate to have never had a student commit suicide. Lots of luck and a psychic big nose has allowed me to ask the right question at critical moments.
I remember counselling an eighteen year old young man who when I asked "how things were going answered with a simple "Not Bad". Would you say good I asked and he responded "no, I am thinking about taking my life". He wanted the pain he was enduring to end.
When students would ask if the information that they gave me would remain confidential I always replied that as long as there was no threat to themselves or others I would not divulge what I heard. However, if I felt there was a concern I was obliged to act in my studentís best behalf and inform their parents of the impending risks.
Stats Canada Suicides and Suicide rates had some interesting numbers. 2,724 males and 884 females committed suicide. Women cry for help and men die The numbers speak for themselves with three to one men committing suicide compared to the females. So much for the myth that we men are the tough, indomitable heroes of society.
We have to concern ourselves with the stats that one third of all deaths of teens is attributable to self-destruction. I am no expert on the solutions but have a few suggestions to offer parents/school boards after counselling for over four decades.
Happy well adjusted youngsters who have a raison díetre- , a reason to be, do not take their lives. Girls are emotionally stronger than boys and are not afraid of asking for help; the high school counselling offices have an abundance of requests from females seeking help from their counsellors.
Rarely do young men make appointments to see their high school counsellors for emotional concerns. Girls have an abundance of female friends along with their mothers that are good listeners to the needs of their female counterparts
Boys are often loners and do not have a sense of trust in their male friends to ask for assistance. Rarely do young males ask their mother or father for assistance. Asking for help has not been considered macho or cool for our teen-aged young men. In our society males have not been taught to show their emotions.
Teen-aged boys may be six foot two and 180 pounds but that does not make them less needy of our love and attention. Young men have to be taught that crying or asking for help is a natural acceptable response to lifeís problems.
Parents/teachers who take the time to care about the well being of teenage males can with their actions keep a meaningful dialogue open.
Never diminish or laugh at a personís dreams. I will always remember a young woman who took her life in her parentís garage the evening after being told by her guidance teacher that biology was too difficult. She had aspirations of being a nurse and biology was a mandatory requirement.
At her funeral an eighteen year old young woman who sat beside me told me that the proceedings were" pretty cool". I questioned, why would you envy a classmateís funeral?" Look at the large crowd, flowers, Cadillac limos, choir and admiring friends and eulogies I have never had that much attention in my whole life".
In my opinion teen suicides are tragic events that do not warrant praise or notoriety. The taking of oneís own life should never be a viable alternative for our children. It goes against nature not to endure and live life to the fullest.
Victor Frankl has written a wonderful book,"Manís Search for Meaning" where he describes his experiences as an inmate of a concentration camp in Poland during the Second World War. Interesting, very few of the starving, vanquished people committed suicide. Frankl is fond of quoting Nietzshe. "He who has a WHY to live for can bear with almost any HOW."
In all of the high schools that I had the opportunity to be the Head of Guidance I introduced the STP, student tutoring program where senior students were involved in helping to mentor students in need of help. Every new student to the school was matched with a fellow student who took the newcomer to class for three days, had lunch and accompanied the student home after school. There was an exchange of phone numbers and email addresses for after hours for the kids to keep-in-touch with each other.
Kids helping kids sure helped with attendance, loneliness, depression and tutoring. One of my mothers called me for help with her son Jimmy who was very ill with Cancer who felt the need to stay in touch with the school. One of my senior students agreed to pay visits every Wednesday and Friday. In the end Jimmy died fighting his illness but the family was very appreciative of the contact with his school.
No one should feel left behind: we all have merit and are in need of meaningful contact. The epidemic of teen student suicides in Woodstock shows that there is an integral part of the equation that is missing and that is the understanding that one is not between a rock and a hard place for which there are no answers accept death. Most students do not want to die and lie in a grave; they want the pain to go away . There are viable solutions to the suicide threat of our children that need to be explored.