14 August, 2010

It Only Hurts When I'm Breathing

Yesterday a beautiful teenage girl, just three days away from beginning her senior year of high school took her own life, leaving to survive her one year old daughter, and a community of kids that is just reeling with the shock of this news. There seemed to be little warning. No one can fathom what pushed this young woman to do something so tragic. I went to her Facebook page, and the subtle warnings of depression was there, but no one seemed to notice. In the last week, she and her boyfriend had broken up. Her posts were not direct, but the indications there, she was battling depression, as she spoke of just being so tired in one post, then in another not wanting to get out of bed to go to work and yet another that said, "It only hurts when I'm breathing." There were others as well... but no one noticed, nor did they see that she was posting these things after 3:00 AM and then wanting to sleep through the day. This girl was a spark plug. Her smile lit up a room and everyone who knew her loved her dearly. But no one could see what was going on behind the mask of that electric smile. It is almost always that way. The mask or image says to the world, "I'm bright and bubbly and got it all together." But the true self, the one that comes out when we are alone is pain and loneliness. I've been there. Wore that mask for years and I battled depression that few can relate to. Everyone around me saw the class clown, the guy who loved to party, the guy who could dance the night away... but few ever had a clue to the inner darkeness that haunted me when I went home by myself. It was there that the voices in my head told me how worthless I was and that there was no hope. Somehow I believe this beautiful girl who everybody loved was battling the same demons.

Suicide is always a tragedy, but for a teenager to be so unbearably unhappy that he would choose to kill his or herself is something that's almost too painful for a parent or friends to think about. But the fact is that with the increasing prevalence of teen suicide, none of us can afford to ignore the possibility. In case you are not aware, suicide is now the third leading cause of death for high-school students. Young people look at this world as being more and more hopeless and they cannot find the answer for their pain and despair, so more and more are choosing suicide as their solution. When I was in high school, I never knew of anyone my age in my school or any of the communities around us committing suicide. Over the years it has become more and more of a problem. When I worked as a teen alcohol and drug counselor in the late 80's and early 90's we were seeing a marked increase, and even ran into suicide pacts where groups of teens would commit suicide or attempt to, at the same time. Statistics today show that nearly one in ten teens contemplates suicide, and over 500,000 attempt it each year. And an alarming fact it that while suicide rates for all other ages have dropped, suicides among teens have nearly tripled. It is something we need to all make ourselves more aware of. We cannot do anything for this precious young lady who walked in such hidden pain. But perhaps we can prevent another from doing the same. Make yourself become more involved on a deeper level. Notice when people's patterns of life change. Get to know the real person, becoming intimately involved in their thoughts, not just their actions. You may just save a life.

1 comment:

Libby said...

As a teacher I am ever aware of possible underlying causes affecting the behaviors of my students. I don't have a perfect track record but as the "first line of defense" I have tipped off the school counselors and Deans regarding problems before they knew about it. There have been times I have just shut my door and locked it and cried my eyes out over the pain my students were facing. Most of them have never seen the tears but I do believe they know I care and many have shared things with me that I really didn't want to know. They just needed to tell someone. Really, how sad is it that the person they feel they can open up to is their high school teacher?! Are there no friends, no family members? Sometimes it is just heartbreaking. I have to build a wall of protection for my own heart but I pray I never become calloused or blind to their pain.