The other day I received a notice in the mail from my son’s school, regarding suicide prevention. I’ve heard so many people make the comment, “They’re just kids. What kind of problems could they possibly have?” It’s great that these people had such a wonderful and simple childhood, that it enables them to make such a statement.
However, this comment is made out of ignorance. To think that children can’t possibly go through anything serious enough that they would contemplate suicide, is absurd. Children go through a lot.
They may not have to pay bills, go to work or raise a family, but they do struggle with school, all types of abuse, bullying and peer pressure. Not only that, they have to go through puberty. That alone can cause a great deal of turmoil in a child’s life.
As adults, we face problems that seem impossible to overcome. They are mountains standing before us. There is no difference between us and children. For children, regardless of their age, their problems are just as overwhelming as ours are. Sometimes even more so, because not only are they having to cope with problems, they are trying to figure out who they are in the process.
They’re still growing, learning themselves and discovering the world around them. They haven’t learned how to cope with rough situations yet and often times they feel that they have no one to turn to. “No one understands.” Most of us have either heard or said that ourselves when we were kids, and people made light of it. The sad part is, is that it was true. No one did seem to understand.
Instead, children were told, “Oh, you’ll get over it. It’ll be okay. You’ll forget all about that boy/girl in a couple of days.” The problem was that, they don’t just get over it, and our kids won’t just get over it either. In the eyes of a child, these problems are the end of the world for them.
Even though it was years ago, I remember being a kid. I had no idea what I was doing, and made so many mistakes along the way because of it. Everything I thought was right, was wrong and everything I thought was wrong, was right. My world was constantly being turned upside down. There was absolutely nothing easy about growing up and I would never want to do that again.
The point is, don’t assume that children can’t have real problems. They do. For them, their problems are very real. They need someone who will listen and who will understand. We may not understand the problem necessarily, but we do need to fully understand that the problem is significant for the child.
Most people, kids included, aren’t going to run up to you and say, “Hey, I’m thinking about overdosing on your prescription meds tonight.” They’re just going to do it. But if we pay attention and listen to our children, we may hear their cry for help before it’s too late.
People are screaming out for help all around us. It may not be audible, but it can be heard. All you have to do is listen.
Here are some warning signs from the notice I received. Even if your child smiles at dinner, laughs at jokes and appears to be okay, you should take a moment and review this list.
1) Previous Attempts
2) Depression – Feelings of helplessness and hopelessness. Comments or behaviors that indicate overwhelming feelings of sadness or pessimistic views on their future.
3) “Masked” Depression – Acts of aggression, gun-play and alcohol/substance abuse. While your child may not act ‘depressed’, their behavior suggests that they are not concerned about their own safety.
4) Final arrangements – Giving away prized possessions such as jewelry, clothing, journals or pictures.
5) Efforts to hurt oneself – Self injury behaviors such as running into traffic, jumping from dangerous heights, or scratching, cutting and marking the body.
6) Inability to concentrate or think clearly – If your child starts getting poor grades, acting up in class, forgetting or poorly performing chores, or talking in a way that they are having trouble concentrating, these might be signs of stress and risk for suicide.
7) Changes is physical habits or appearance – This includes inability to sleep or sleeping all the time, sudden weight gain or loss, or disinterest in appearance or hygiene.
8) Sudden changes in personality, friends and behaviors – Withdrawing and avoiding friends and family, skipping school/classes, loss of involvement in activities that were once important.
9) Death and suicidal themes – Found in drawings, work samples, journals, or homework.
10) Plan/method/access – Increased interest in weapons, pills, or talking/hinting about a suicide plan. The greater the planning, the greater the potential for suicide.
11) Suicide notes
12) Suicide threats – Statements such as “I want to die. The world would be better without me. Nobody would miss me.” Even if they say it in a joking manner, it should be taken seriously.
Never say, “That couldn’t happen to my child. My child wouldn’t do that.” As much as you think you know your child (or anyone for that matter), there are some things you don’t know. Not everything is visible to the eye, especially when our love for them prevents us from seeing it.
This can happen to anyone; our friends, family members, children, co-workers or neighbors. All I ask, is that you listen. Listen for their silent scream.