I recently found myself walking among peace and serenity, in a quiet and seemingly forgotten older area of downtown. I walked in an out of the rows of names painstakingly etched beautifully into the marble, stone, and other materials that were used to make headstones back in the 1800 and 1900’s. I was walking in a cemetery, fascinated by the names, dates, and stories etched on those stones. However, what soon caught my eye were the number of children and young adults who were laid to rest within. Statues of lambs, dates which were too close together. And my mind began to wander.
My mind began to wander to the recent story of the 9-year-old boy who ended his life after coming home from school following weeks of bullying. To the 16 and 12-year-old who ended their lives while playing the horrible WhatsApp Momo Suicide Game. The countless others who have ended their lives due to this game and the Blue Whale challenge, another suicide game. To one of the most heartbreaking ones, the 6-year-old little girl who ended her life after announcing to her family that she was going to do it. This is not the complete list. There are SO many other heartbreaking stories that I could share, but that would take an entire encyclopedia.
Suicides among youth occur once every 5 days according to the latest CDC study from 2015. The latest findings (click here to view the source) show that suicide is the SECOND leading cause of death for youth ages 10-14 and for ages 15-24 as of 2016. It is no longer the third leading cause. It has now increase to the SECOND. Studies also show that approximately 76% of those youth who ended their life were boys. However, keep in mind that more females attempt suicide than males, yet more males are successful.
So, what should we do to help lower these numbers? To help protect our children? This is one of the reasons why it is so important to have programs such as Celebration Place for our children, “pre-covery” if you will. We want our children to know that it’s OKAY to talk about their feelings. It’s okay to feel normal, to struggle with identifying feelings, to struggle with coping. In my experience in counseling younger children, I’ve seen and heard the heartbreaking things they say and feel. I allow them a safe place to talk and express things through play and through their imagination. I give them the attention that they need and deserve.
As adults, we are responsible for providing much of this for our children. Yet, when I am out and about, I see so many adults on their phones, giving their children electronics to play with and keep them occupied, and shushing their children when their children are desperate for attention and someone to talk to. If we continue treating our children as if they are not important, as if they don’t matter, they will grow up thinking and feeling this way. Don’t agree? Just ask some of the adults who struggle with this very thing and have been struggling since childhood. As children we were taught to always pretend to be happy, to just “buck up” and “pull yourself up by your bootstraps.” Or my absolute non-favorite, “You’re too young to feel/think that way.”
I want to share with you a video. In the state of Georgia, there have been at least 23 youth suicides to date. That’s 23 SINCE JANUARY! Remember, suicide is now the second leading cause of death in this age group. So how can we prevent it? By knowing the signs. By talking to our children. Opening the door for conversation, spending time with them, providing them with that safe place to just feel and be a kid or an adolescent. In one of the most difficult times with the rise of technology and social media, it’s so important to monitor social media and how our children are treating others and being treated. Let us start paying more attention to them and less attention to our own social media. Their lives are just as important if not more.
This video is a public service announcement done in light of the large number of youth ending their lives in Georgia. Please watch the entire video and help to save the lives of our children and adolescents. They are the foundation of our world, of our future.
:Trigger warning, strong situations discussed:
*Note: The phone number listed on the video is the Georgia crisis and Access line. If you are not in the state of Georgia, you can call 1-800-273-8255 to reach the National Suicide Hotline in the United States or text START to 741741. If you are international, please call the crisis and access lines in your area.
April Brantley, CR Mental Health Team X-Factor