We're Losing Our Kids
I wrote this blog several months ago after learning of the suicide of yet another young college student, this one the friend of college student I know well.
Last week came a report about a cluster of suicides in a short period of time at a local ivy league university, an admissions aspiration for many students and parents alike.
And a few days ago, after days of following news reports with a sick feeling in my gut, the news arrived. A 13-year-old child who attended an elite private school near my community walked out of his home the night before a major snowstorm and shot himself. This after receiving an email from school about a poor progress report. And reports say that he may have been concerned about the consequences of such both at home and school.
Words are lacking to convey my sadness about this loss. The thought of a young teenager being in such pain and turmoil that he ended his life with a gun just yards from his home in the darkness of night is more than my mind can absorb.
SMOKE AND MIRRORS
Voices are increasing about removing the stigma associated with mental illness, particularly for children and young adults. Depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder…no longer are these foreign terms but instead are becoming part of our lexicon. But there’s more – far more – that needs to be addressed.
Our children are in crisis. Right in our back yard. Or our living room. They’re dealing with stressors that many parents do not see or understand or want to acknowledge. They’re facing expectations to achieve beyond their ability to cope and function. And many are walking around every day, working hard to present the appearance of being functional – and sometimes accomplishing the goal – when they’re actually anything but.
There’s the “magical threshold” that colleges flip like a lightswitch, assuming that a child who spent 18 years under the care of their parents suddenly becomes an adult despite the fact that their brain isn’t fully developed until 25. They’re expected to “be adults” yet many are ill-equipped to meet the expectations.
There’s everything our middle and high school students face, far beyond what we ever experienced as students. Testing, grades, extracurricular activities, volunteering, accelerated courses, pre-college assessments, college preparation. Not to mention social media, video games, bullying, cyberbullying, peer pressure, drug and alcohol issues, home demands. And the earlier emergence and diagnosis of mental health issues.
Our children, whether 13 or 21, are balancing on a tightrope that they’re finding increasingly difficult to walk. Many are slipping and others are falling through cracks that are swallowing them whole. And forever.
CIRCLE THE WAGONS
I’m a parent too and my own child, now a young adult, experienced difficulties throughout school so I know the struggles and the systems that work against parents in the quest to help their children. Not all parents are like me. Many stay in denial. Others hope the phase will pass. Others struggle to help their child who may be resistant to their efforts. The reality is that the line between having another day to fight and the last day can be hair thin.
My heart goes out to this child who had barely started his life. No child should be so alone, unable to cope, and without the supports they need. We as parents need to mobilize. We need to surround our children – all our children – as was done in communities years ago. If we’re told that if we “see something, say something” about unattended bags on the street, we need to start speaking up when we see, hear, or think that a child is in trouble. Forget about stages, phases, or momentary mood swings. We can’t afford to assume. We need to engage.
There’s not a moment to delay. Not one more young life can we lose. Not one more.