Frustrated Youths

The media reports on suicides more now than ever before. Bullying from social media and in person seems to be rising. Mean kids have always been around though, teen suicide is not new. As far back as the Salem Witch Trials teens have played “mean girls”, accusing people they didn’t like of being a witch so that they must go on trial.

The summer before my freshman year in high school one of my closest male friends took his own life by jumping off a bridge into a large, rough river. He probably didn’t expect to be in a coma prior to finally succumbing to his choice, but his choice impacted many people. That’s what people who choose to end their lives don’t realize. Their suffering may end, but they leave behind a life time of memories and questions for those who care for them. It’s been more than 20 years and I still think about him around his birthday and the month he took his life every single year. Until I started therapy a couple of years ago I wasn’t entirely sure why I was so angry every year around these times. I never got to say good bye, I never got closure, with the help of my therapist I was able to resolve my anger and now I can think of him fondly when he comes to mind.

I have two boys, I am pretty sure they are happy kids. When I talk to them they tell me the good things in life, if they are having issues with peers we brainstorm on how we can resolve the conflicts or move past it. I do not want either of my kids to be the next statistic. It terrifies me every time I see another kid on the news who couldn’t handle it and completed suicide.

According to kidshealth.org “Suicide is the third-leading cause of death for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), after accidents and homicide. It’s also thought that at least 25 attempts are made for every completed teen suicide.”

This is heart breaking and should be to every parent out there. We need to talk to our kids. Pry if you must, this is our future generation and what kind of world will we have if the good kids, sensitive kids all disappear and are left mostly with the bullies? Mental health for everyone is important, no one should feel shame for having to work with a professional, there are so many ways of getting help now that you don’t even need to go into an office to talk to someone.

This hotline should be like poison control number on the magnet of parent’s fridges. You probably won’t need it, but it’s there just in case. 1-800-273-8255, if you or someone you love is having thoughts of suicide or self harm.

Stats from the CDC:

  • Boys are 4 times more likely to die from suicide than girls.
  • Girls are more likely to attempt suicide than boys.
  • Guns are used in more than half of youth suicides.

Some of the leading causes of suicides in youth:

  • Changes in their families, such as divorce or moving to a new town
  • Changes in friendships
  • Problems in school
  • Other losses

Youth at higher risk of suicide:

  • One or more mental or substance abuse problems
  • Impulsive behaviors
  • Undesirable life events or recent losses, such as the death of a parent
  • Family history of mental or substance abuse problems
  • Family history of suicide
  • Family violence, including physical, sexual, or verbal or emotional abuse
  • Past suicide attempt
  • Gun in the home
  • Imprisonment
  • Exposure to the suicidal behavior of others, such as from family or peers, in the news, or in fiction stories

Warning Signs that can also look like depression:

  • Changes in eating and sleeping habits
  • Loss of interest in usual activities
  • Withdrawal from friends and family members
  • Acting-out behaviors and running away
  • Alcohol and drug use
  • Neglecting one’s personal appearance
  • Unnecessary risk-taking
  • Obsession with death and dying
  • More physical complaints often linked to emotional distress, such as stomachaches, headaches, and extreme tiredness (fatigue)
  • Loss of interest in school or schoolwork
  • Feeling bored
  • Problems focusing
  • Feeling he or she wants to die
  • Lack of response to praise
  • Says “I want to kill myself,” or “I’m going to commit suicide.”
  • Gives verbal hints, such as “I won’t be a problem much longer,” or “If anything happens to me, I want you to know ….”
  • Gives away favorite possessions or throws away important belongings
  • Becomes suddenly cheerful after a period of depression
  • May express weird thoughts
  • Writes 1 or more suicide notes

Sources:

https://www.urmc.rochester.edu/encyclopedia/content.aspx?contenttypeid=90&contentid=P02584

https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/

https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/suicide.html

https://www.aacap.org/aacap/families_and_youth/facts_for_families/fff-guide/teen-suicide-010.aspx

https://www.suicideinfo.ca/resource/teensuicide/

https://www.speakingofsuicide.com/2017/09/21/suicide-language/

Modern Mothering to Boys

I always said “I want boys, I remember what I was like as a teenager and I DO NOT want a girl”. What I did not realize was that 11-12 year old boys, are just as emotional as the girls. It probably happens a little later but there is still door slamming, blasting music and mean words. Puberty snuck up on me, I thought I had until the actual “teens” before I had to explain body changes and consent to our oldest.

When my son was in the fifth grade I had a conversation with him about girls that had already started puberty. I informed him that puberty for anyone was hard, uncomfortable and challenging. If given the chance to make someone’s day easier or harder, you should always try to make it easier. We discussed menstrual cycles and how when you are going through puberty some times it happens without a girl knowing or being prepared. It’s hard enough being a girl (woman) and that should not be made worse because you weren’t prepared for your period and because of your clothing choice, everyone now knows. I explained that if he sees this, and someone starts saying things to not be part of it, better, if he knows the girl it may be nicer to quietly approach her and let her know. I know that latter could be very awkward for boys, but I wanted to give him multiple approaches so he can make the decision should he need to.

Consent in these times seems so much more difficult then when I was growing up. There were no cells phones or social media when I was in middle school and high school. No way to be easily harassed by people. Mean notes could be turned in to teachers, there was physical evidence that could be confiscated at any point in time. I remember when I was in grade school I wore denim skirts (it was the 80s), there was this boy who would drop his pencil by my feet and look up my skirt. One day, I had enough and I put his head in a vice grip with my knees until the teacher came over. That boy never did that again.

These days there are so many ways of being bullied or harassed, it’s hard to keep up. There are apps that allow messaging that I didn’t even realize like Instagram. I knew Snapchat was something I had to keep an eye on so we had a rule; there is only texting through the texting app. Any other texts happening and the app would be blocked. Instagram was blocked because profiles claiming to be grown women (who really knows these days) were sending messages to my child and then messages between friends started happening. Snapchat was removed as it was a different offense. The parental app we use to monitor our “minor” has been call the “privacy invader” by our son. “Yes, yes it is”, we say, you are not 18 so we are responsible for everything you do and we need to know what’s happening.

Consent isn’t just for physical touch though, it’s also for conversations you don’t want to continue. We’ve been discussing how continuing a conversation with negotiations once someone says the conversation is over is also a consent issue. It is not OK to keep forcing someone to keep talking once you have indicated the discussion is over or to follow people into another room when they are trying to leave the topic. Same thing for discussions with friends, potential romantic partners, parents, teachers. Consent is something we need to be teaching all of our children, and in every form of the word. Forcing people into something, physical, mental, whatever, is not OK.

I am interested, have you had to have these conversations with your children? What is your view on the topic?