ARTICLES, I NEED HELP: TEEN SUICIDE PREVENTION
Suicide: A Cycle of Hurt
We hear about it all the time, in the news, at school, but no one feels the impact until it hits close to home. No one wants to talk about it either- friends, parents, teachers, until it’s too late.
The reality is that suicide happens more than we think; in Canada, it is the second leading cause of non-accidental death for teens aged 10-24, after car accidents. There can be a variety of reasons a person decides to take their own life; a suicidal person feels so much pain they see no other option. They are filled with self-hatred, hopelessness, and helplessness. Bullying is one major cause for suicide amongst youth. “Sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me.” We have all heard that growing up, but in actuality, words do hurt. They can hurt so bad they make someone want to take their life. The words we say have an effect on someone who is likely already struggling with depression, major life changes, substance abuse, poor relationships and a lack of support, emotional or physical abuse, or identity crisis, such as LGBT youth. These struggles can make youth feel trapped and isolated, and telling someone they are “just doing it for attention” or that “things can’t be that bad” makes it worse. The bullying that stabs so deep not only pushes that person to suicide, but hurts those left behind; families and loved ones.
Matt*, a local Edmonton artist, is now 30 years old, lost his best friend David* to suicide in grade nine. The memories are distant for him now, but still painful. “He was really smart. He wanted to be an eye doctor. He was geeky, so he was bullied a lot. We both were.”David never spoke to anyone about suicide, even Matt, who was his best friend. “I called him that day, and I remember that the phones were disconnected. I think he was just so done, and he didn’t want to be interrupted…his sister walked down the stairs and found him hanging in the basement,” he recalls. “I don’t remember who told me. It was forever ago.”
The worst part about the suicide for Matt was the funeral. “The people who bullied him, they all came to the funeral and I was so mad. I sat on the steps outside and cried, and his mom approached me and thanked me for being his friend.” Matt felt even more alone after David’s suicide. “I was extremely sad, but I was mostly angry at him. We were such good friends and we talked about everything, how could he not tell me? I feel like I could’ve done something to help him or stop him.” Matt also struggled with bullying through out junior high and high school and often had suicidal thoughts himself. “I was so depressed and I thought about suicide. But I never wanted to give them the pleasure of winning; of knowing I did that because of them. Leaving that place [high school] was my first escape, and it felt like freedom.”
Matt is not the only one to have experienced bullying to the point that he felt like taking his life as his best friend did, and he is not the only one to have lost someone; approximately 1 in 4 people know someone who has committed suicide. When you know someone who has committed suicide, a lot can be going through your mind: guilt, anger, sadness, and confusion. This can all lead to depression, so how do you cope?
“He was a broken branch grafted onto a different family tree – adopted, but not because his parents opted for a different destiny he was three when he became a mixed drink of one part left alone and two parts tragedy started therapy in 8th grade had a personality made up of tests and pills lived like the uphills were mountain s and the downhills were cliffs four fifths suicidal tidal wave of anti-depressants and an adolescence of being called popper one part because of the pill s and ninety nine parts because of the cruelty he tried to kill himself in grade ten when a kid who still had his mom and dad had the audacity to tell him ‘get over it’ as if depression is something that can be remedied by any of the contents found in a first aid kit” – An excerpt from the spoken word poem and animation, “To This Day” by Shane Koyczan
You Are Not to Blame
Suicide is an individual decision, and once a person has made a choice to go through with the act, you have to realize that it is not your fault. However, if you know someone who is suicidal, there is still hope.
First of all, do not promise anything you cannot or do not want to do. The pressure of helping someone who is suicidal can be a lot to handle on your own, and it’s okay to need help from another source. If the individual has mentioned that they are contemplating suicide, they don’t always want to die and are reaching out to you and want help. The most crucial thing is to give them a safe place to talk to you openly, and be heard. Never tell them that things are not so bad, and always take it seriously; if it were you in their place, what would you want to hear? If the person is actively suicidal, you need to get help immediately by calling a local crisis center, and ask them how and where they intend to kill themselves. Keeping their secret may be important to your friendship, but if they are desperate enough to follow through with suicide, telling someone else could be a matter of life or death.
Sometimes as friends and family members, we feel like we did all we can. We stay up night after night in shock and anger, wondering what we could have done differently. You might start to feel out of touch with your friends and fall behind in school, while your relationships with your family members start to worsen, if you talk to them at all. This is normal, but it needs to stop eventually; just as you would have wanted your friend or family member to talk to someone, you need to do the same. There are teachers, doctor, and councilors, clergy members from your religion, and family and friends that are willing to listen and help.
The Other Side
If you are having suicidal thoughts, you have been in a cloud of blinding, heavy depression for along time and you feel like there is no way out. Maybe you have tried to talk to someone and feel like they have barely listened or offered help; perhaps they minimized your feelings and the situation you’re in. You feel like you hate yourself, the world, and you feel rejected and lost; and maybe you are in this place because you have been bullied past your breaking point, or you come from a place that feels so dark, it seems like there will never be a way out. Maybe it’s a mix of everything weighing down on you all at once, and you feel it would just be easier not to be here. The thing is, you are not the only one to have been in this place, or have grown up this way, and to have felt like there is no hope. There is always hope. There is always someone who is willing to listen when it seems that no one will; there are teachers, councilors and therapists when you feel like your friends or family don’t understand, and there are crisis help lines, online communities, and meetings. Just like Matt* there is a moment where you escape and feel freedom, and it’s not through suicide.
Written by Adela Czyzewska
*Starred names have been changed for confidentiality.