Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden
Yesterday was my first of hopefully many visits to Cleveland High Schools to share with students 9th-12th grades my story, and how major depression and suicide affect teenagers. My head swirled in the honor of being there, a deep sense of responsibility, love for the youth, and wonder at the colossal lack of education about this topic among teens and teachers alike.
Kids are dying.
I witnessed expressions changing, some from laughing to tears, others from stoic and lost to paying rapt attention. In some cases I was able to pick out ahead of time the ones who are just surviving each day. A girl smiles yet inwardly retreats, a boy is popular yet questions his worth, another student is a misfit, and there is a smart, creative sort of fellow. These have considered ending their lives and dreamed of death; exposed by their eyes when I began to talk. Each confirmed my instincts via slightly raised hands or veiled nodding heads when I asked who has thought of suicide.
There were many of them. It’s going to take more than one person visiting these schools to affect change.
As the day unfolded I learned the topic of depression and suicide has not been covered before in any of the classes I attended. Teachers told me the school has not addressed it. I came there to speak with students, yet the adults had so many questions it is clear their needs must be addressed also.
Almost all the people of any age expressed surprise at hearing that 1 in 5 teenagers are presently struggling with a mental illness that interferes with their functioning each day. 1 in 5, and no one is talking about it? 1 in 10 are dealing with major depression or bipolar depression. Yet depression and suicide are taboo subjects.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death nationally for teenagers.* Combine cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, and the number of deaths still does not equal how many teens die from suicide.** Statistically, 11 youth die by suicide every day, and for every suicide death, there are 50-200 attempts.*** Wow, really?
Suicide is preventable. Our teenagers do not have to feel hopeless.
This little light of mine shined yesterday in the dark. More lamps are necessary, everywhere.
For that reason, this blog series is going to focus on what people might say to let you know they are thinking about suicide, how a suicidal person may act, what depression may look like in a teenager, what obsession with death has to do with suicide, and more. I’ll be writing about what causes depression and suicide, and some very common myths such as doubting the seriousness of multiple attempts or attempts that did not result in death.
Comments are always welcome (see tab below). NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help can be yours.
* http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/trends/us_suicide_trend_yrbs.pdf (2013 CDC WISQARS)