I apologize for publishing this post so late, especially one this serious in nature. I know my day contained the same twenty-four hours as it did for all of you, but somehow time escaped me. And not for productive reasons, either.
If it is alright with you, I respectfully request permission to slip back into my former teacher role for the duration of today's post. Not that teacher's are the only people who could benefit from this information, but because it was an issue so close to my heart during the years spent in my classroom. So, as you read my thoughts today, please keep in mind I have four years classroom experience (not much, I know) as well as a Bachelor's and Master's Degree in Education.
Back in October, I blogged about bullying. According to the stats tab, it was my first successful post (excluding giveaways) and continues drawing in readers from different parts of the world. I'm not going to reiterate what I've already stated. If you've been with me, you know how I feel about the issue. If you take a second to click the bullying tabs at the top of this site, you'll gain a better idea of why.
Towards the end of my third year in teaching, I had an opportunity that forever changed my life. My district invited Mr. John Halligan to speak with our students about Ryan, his youngest child who tragically ended his life at the age of thirteen . I will never forget sitting through that presentation.
One year after that assembly, Mr. Halligan visited the school district where I currently reside. Wanting to learn more, I ventured into the cold, rainy night and listened once again. But this time it was different. The second presentation I attended was for adults only, and I was able to hear (and read) certain details deemed inappropriate for middle schoolers. I left that evening with a heavier heart then the year before.
Why do I bring this up? Earlier this week, I received an e-mail linking a disturbing article and learned two teenagers, in separate incidents, recently committed suicide. A tear released itself from my left eye and traveled down my cheek as I stared at their pictures - images revealing young individuals filled with promise and potential. I couldn't take it.
As I investigated the cases further, I discovered a third incident where a 15 year-old shot himself inside a high school bathroom around the same time. What the heck is going on?????
Please know these cases are still being investigated. Details are limited and it will be a matter of time before all pieces are put together. Naturally, the bullying card is being played, and I'm sure it has its place to a certain extent. But nothing is certain as of now, so I'm not going to speculate.
What I do know is this: Teenagers do not kill themselves because they are happy. They do not end their life because things are going according to plan, nor do they do it to escape a hard test or get out of a homework assignment. This behavior is prompted from serious psychological problems, most likely undiagnosed, including unhappiness, depression, and feelings of inadequacy.
It absolutely must stop.
From my experience, I do not believe teens fully comprehend what it means to commit suicide. They are not capable of looking beyond the here and now, and because of that, fail to recognize the permanent result of this decision. I think some view it as taking a long nap; they'll be removed from life for a few days, and when they return, things will be better. They have not reached an age or maturity level to fully grasp the concept.
Furthermore, it is hard for kids to come clean with their problems. I hate to say it, but reporitng bullying often makes the situation worse. Once the school gets involved, the kid will be branded a snitch before the initial conversation is even finished. Like it or not, that presents an entirely new set of problems.
Few people, if any, would describeteens as rational. They are known to act on impulse - to live in the moment and not think about consequences. We've all been there. So, when a teen decides to end their life, have they thought it over, or are they acting in the heat of a moment? Many kids blow hot and cold. I often wonder if they were to take a nap and sleep off the bad mood, would they still feel suicidal after waking up? Unfortunately, we can't study something that never happened in the first place.
Such situations prompt a lot of finger pointing - at parents, at school systems, at friends and innocent bystanders. I'm not going to do that. I think schools need to step it up, but that is an entirely different issue I probably shouldn't get into. This post is long enough.
I share this information because I'm going to be honest - there is no simple solution to the problem. The reality is, it is far more complex and incorporates more variables than most realize.
My heart continues to bleed for the families of these children and the lives that were lost. A number of people, myself included, have made it a mission to spread awareness. But, as the death count rises, it becomes clear that approach is not enough. I feel I should be doing more, but what more can people be doing?
So, readers, what are your thoughts? How do we come together as a society to tackle this escalating problem? How do we create a culture where kids feel safe and loved? How do we teach about empathy and spread the message of kindness? How do we teach troubled teens to choose LIFE?
I'd love to hear your thoughts.
By the way, I apologize for any incoherent thoughts or mechanical issues in this post. You see what time it was posted; it's been a looooong day!