He prayed for the day that the pain would stop. In his mind he saw demons haunting him. He had to get them out of his head. The mirror reflected the lost soul of a fifteen year old boy marred with acne. Since age twelve he had been ridiculed, mocked, teased and taunted. With a single mom who worked two jobs just to pay the bills, he was frequently left home alone to fend for himself. His world consisted of one childhood friend and the avatar he had created in Modern Warfare III. At least there he could create his own persona and escape the hell in which he was living.
Daily thoughts of ending his life screamed in every crevasse of his brain. Who was going to miss a loser, a failure? Sure his mom would, but this would be a favor to her and she'd realize it was his gift to her after she got over his death. At least she could give up one of her jobs and have one less mouth to feed. As far as his dad, he didn't even know where he was. He'd ran out on them when he was a baby and on rare occasion sent a birthday card with twenty bucks in it. That's all he was worth? Loneliness was sinking in and hope was fading...
He got on his laptop and started typing his goodbye letter to his mom. Tonight he was going to end the pain. He put on his headphones and cranked the music full blast. He searched for a song on I-Tunes. Then he saw one titled "The Last Night" - perfect he thought. He sat mesmerized by the words: "This is the last night you'll spend alone, I'll wrap you in my arms and won't let go...I won't let you say goodbye." A tear splashed on his keypad. He reached for his cell and texted his mom to FaceTime with him. She immediately responded. Once the picture of her son pulled up she saw a broken boy's face reaching through the screen. Heaving with sobs he finally got the words out "Come Home Now, I need you." "I am on my way..."
Minutes that seemed like an eternity, ticked by as he waited for his mom’s arrival. He heard the key turn the latch. His mother stepped inside and found her son hunched over sobbing. She dropped her purse and ran to him. Consoling, him she wrapped him tightly in her arms like she did so many times before. He was her life. Everything she did was for him. She couldn't imagine what she would do if anything should happen to him. As she embraced her son, thoughts raced through her head, “Why us? Where there signs? Did I miss them? What did I do wrong? What do I do now?”
These are the very questions that so many parents and families are left to answer after a suicide attempt or suicide. In this blog, I’ll attempt to show the impact suicide is having on our youth, the warning signs and where to get help. One message that is common with those who have attempted suicide is...don’t do it, life does get better...
No One is Unaffected...
It's time we break the stigma associated with suicide and mental illness. It's past time we break the silence.
Click the link to watch an amazing video on TED by JD Schramm "Break the silence for suicide attempt survivors."
What are the Suicide Statistics?
Every minute in the US someone will attempt suicide
Every day 14 young people (age 15-24) commit suicide
Approximately 5,000 teens commit suicide annually—this doesn’t include deaths labeled as “accidents”
Third leading cause of death for teens
Second leading cause of death for college students
For every completion, there are between 30-50 attempts
For the most part, males use more violent means to commit suicide: guns, hanging, etc. Most females use less severe methods like overdoses, cutting, etc.
Suicide Rates are increasing.
The suicide rate has doubled in the past 20 years for teens age 10-14
The suicide rate for Caucasian males aged 15-24 has tripled since 1950, while for Caucasian females it has more than doubled. The rate for African-Americans is lower than Caucasians, but has been on the rise since the 1980s
Female teens attempt suicide six times more frequently than males
For every female who commits suicide, there are three males who commit suicide
Homosexual youths attempt suicide four times more than heterosexual youths
Why the increase?
Easier access to guns and weapons
Stress. The pressures of life are greater as there is incredible pressure to succeed -which leads to uncertainty about the future
Rigorous competition for achievement, good grades, and college admission
More exposure and desensitization to violence in the media, games, etc.
Less family quality time as many parents work one or more jobs
What are the risk factors?
Presence of a mental illness: depression, anxiety
Availability of weapons in the home
Previous suicide attempt
Family history of suicide
Personal failure: failing class, not making the cut for a sports team, not getting the desired job
Recent death or anniversary of the death of a close friend/family member
Teen stressors: break-up, moving to a new school/college, unplanned pregnancy, legal trouble, being bullied
Know the warning signs.
Did you know that 4 out of 5 teen suicide attempts occurred after clear warning signs were present?
Deterioration in personal hygiene
Frequent physical complaints: migraines, stomach aches
Episodes of crying
Sudden happiness after a long period of depression
Giving away personal possessions
Hopeless or vague comments: “I wish I was never born” or “I won’t be around much longer”
Direct statements about wanting to kill oneself
Themes of death or depression in conversation, writing, artwork, or music
Change in eating and/or sleeping habits
Drug and/or alcohol use
Withdrawal from family and friends
Loss of interest in favorite activities
Listen - there is nothing that can substitute the power of presence
Care - show compassion, love, and a willingness to help
Ask questions - be genuinely concerned
Be understanding - to get to the point of seeing suicide as the only option means you can't come up with any other solution to make it better
Stick by his/her side all the whole way through
If you are teen out there who is hurting - you are NOT alone. People love you and care for you. It does get better. There is a list of resources that follow this blog. Each of these associations/organizations offer either help or information on suicide. What you are experiencing now is just a moment in time, it's not always going to be or feel like this. Please reach out and get help; your life is important. You do matter and this moment will pass and you'll see it will get better.
To any parent or adult who knows someone at risk of suicide, please reach out to him/her and get professional help. People are generally suicidal only for a very brief period of time. Help your loved one pass through this moment of his/her life, for this difficult moment in time will pass and it will only get better.
Sources and Resources:
Society for the Prevention of Teen Suicide
Sponsor of this program focuses on resources for the competent school community
Suicide Prevention Resource Center
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
Printed materials & resources
American Association of Suicidology
Data, resources, links
University of Southern Florida
Downloadable guide for a school suicide prevention program
NATIONAL SUICIDE HOTLINES
United States of America
Toll-Free / 24 hours a day / 7 days a week
Skillet - The Last Night - Atlantic Records