It’s Everyone’s Responsibility to Talk About Youth Suicide
Last week, we woke up to the horrendous news that Sydney Aiello, a young survivor of the 2018 Parkland shooting, died by suicide.
Now, I ask all those who still reluctant to talk about suicide among teenagers… Can we talk about it now?
As a writer, one of my most rewarding experiences is when I receive letters from my readers praising me for a well-written piece, or for the exposure I gave to a controversial topic. Some letters get my attention, but others go straight to my heart.
A couple of weeks ago, I received a letter from a reader asking me to use my platforms to talk about a problem that is touching so many lives in our nation… the rise in youth suicide. After reading the letter, I felt honored this reader was choosing me to be the voice of this terrible situation. But, after thinking about it, I realized that more than an honor, I was given the responsibility to bring awareness to this problem with the hopes of helping someone in need. The only thing was, as much as I wanted to start writing right away, I couldn’t do it because I have never been exposed to that situation, at least not directly, so I was conflicted in what to write. But, the night after I received the letter came a dream that changed the curse of my hesitation to write about youth suicide.
As I was getting ready to go to bed, the words in the letter kept messing with my head. I reminisced about the reader’s story as I fell asleep, and that was the beginning of a dream I wish I had never experienced.
I am not going to get into the details of the dream because it wasn’t a good dream. All I will tell you is that the difference between my dream experience, and the experience of the parents of those who died by suicide, is that I got to wake up from my nightmare; they didn’t. Their nightmares have no end. That’s a feeling I hope I never have to experience in real life, but one I know we have to acknowledge and talk about so we can find a way to stop this issue that is destroying so many lives and so many families.
The truth is that life is hard, and for this new generation, life is even harder. Not only do they have to deal with the indirect pressure of having a “fun” and “amazing” life so they can be part of the “cool kids” on social media, but they also have to deal with the effects of more dangerous issues our society is currently facing. Issues like these school shootings. This generation is a generation that has never seen what life is without war. Every morning, they wonder if today will be the day when they will die at school, or at the movies, or at church, or at the mall. This generation is dealing with all that nonsense, and the sad part is that no school kid should have to think about or even have to prepare for a mass shooting. Our kids don’t deserve this but they are dealing with it, and we have to do something about it.
How can I help, you may ask? There are many ways we as a community can join forces to deal with this situation. You don’t have to have a psychology degree or doctorate in mental health care to be there for each other, to lend a helping hand to a child in need. We all can help each other by offering support, by identifying the signs that could tell if a kid needs help, even when that kid is not one of our own children, and to share our concerns with the kid’s parents. We live in a society in which kids easily get influenced by the negativity currently happening in our nation and we need to be there for our children before it’s too late.
As parents, legal guardians, teachers and leaders in general, it is our responsibility to stand by our children, to protect them and to offer them compassion, empathy and guidance, so that if or when a suicidal thought passes through their minds, they know it is not the solution. They need to understand that there are other ways to deal with life’s difficulties and suicide is not the way.
Photo by Eric Nopanen on Unsplash