My heart aches for parents and family members who experience a teen suicide. This tragedy is devastating to family, friends and the community. Everyone is left wondering if they could have done something to prevent this. Suicide is so complex. No one has answers. I can only outline some of the things I experience when working with teens.
Working with adolescents is a joy. They are refreshing, warm and honest when they feel safe. Feeling close to a caring adult and being able to share struggles is essential to their health and well-being. There is a misperception that suicide only happens to high-risk teens. All children are at risk. They are under pressure to perform, they compare themselves to others and find themselves lacking, their brain is not developed, they are constantly tired due to the rapid brain growth they are experiencing, and they have limited coping and relationship skills. Add to this formula, a skewed social media where people only post amazing things that are happening in their lives. Compared to pronouncements on Facebook, they feel like they are missing out, sometime even excluded. How many families eat meals together, carve out intentional time to be with each other, talk and connect in meaningful ways? We are all running so fast that relationships and meaningful connections are rare. Loneliness, isolation, disconnection and insecurity are associated with depression.
Years ago, a parent said she would pay me to spend the day with her daughter. I would not accept payment for hanging out with a teen, but I did ask her if she would be willing to pay for a workshop I could facilitate with her daughter and several of her friends. She agreed and we hosted a workshop. Ten girls from public and private schools attended. The girls were stunning, tall, well dressed and from highly resourced families. They lacked nothing, or so it seemed. We did a fun ice-breaker, got the girls talking with one other and then had them sit in a semi-circle. I told them I was going to ask a question and needed an answer no matter how long it took to get one. I said there would be periods of silence and it would be awkward, but I needed an answer. My question was,” Are you enough?” Each girl stared at me for several seconds. One girl’s lip started to quiver. “Talk to me from your heart.” I said. She told me that she was not fast enough. She went on to say that her father was an Olympic medalist in track and field and now he was her coach, She could never get her dad’s approval with her performance. Each girl then explained why they were not enough. I told them that by the end of the day they were going to be enough. It was an amazing workshop building up these young women and letting them know, they are enough! Let’s work together to give children hope, letting them know they are enough, loved and connected. For more information: email@example.com; www.myrelationshipcenter.org.
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