This week’s teen topic is one that I feel very strongly about, and no, it’s not for religious or moral reasons, it’s actually rather personal. As someone who has seen firsthand the affect that suicide can wreak on a family unit, I want to share some of that experience with you and attempt to make you understand why, regardless of what you think, it will have a resounding impact on those around you.
Suicide in teens (and anyone else for that matter) is a devastating thing. In today’s world of bullying and potentially shitty home lives, it seems that suicide might be the best option. And when it comes to depression or bipolar disorder, it might feel like it’s your only option. But it’s not. You might think that you are alone and no one can possibly understand what you’re going through but you’re wrong. There is someone out there who cares, whether you realize it or not. It might be a friend, a sibling, a parent, a cousin, a classmate, or even a teacher. You aren’t the only one to experience how you are feeling and giving up on life isn’t the solution. And if you’ve gone through all of those people and you are still depressed and still think that suicide is your only option because no one understands, then you are probably not talking to the right people.
Now, don’t think I’m writing this to reprimand you, in fact, I want to encourage you to not think of suicide as an option. I know that seeking help can be scary. As someone who has struggled for years with severe obsessive compulsive disorder (and no, that’s not just saying I have it in the sense that I am a compulsive cleaner or alphabetize my DVD collection, I have actually been diagnosed), I know how difficult it can be to admit, even to yourself, that something is wrong. I didn’t even know what I was feeling was OCD until I talked to my doctor. I’d suspected for years that I had a mild case but being diagnosed officially with it made me feel ashamed and less worthy to be around “normal” people because I had to be on medication to make my brain operate at a functional level. I didn’t even admit it to most of my friends or family until long after I had been diagnosed.
And while OCD might not be the same as depression, it actually a lot of the same markers: loss of interest, feeling overly tired, withdrawal, moodiness, frustration, anger, feelings of helplessness and hopelessness, changes in your sleeping pattern. I experienced all of these things (plus anxiousness and panic attacks) because of a chemical imbalance. My first therapy session was uncomfortable, to say the least. I felt like I was being judged and misunderstood. Of course, that was about the time that I discovered that it can take a few tries to fit the right fit for a psychiatrist. But I didn’t give up, even when I really wanted to because it was awkward and uncomfortable and disconcerting. Eventually, I found the pace and the medication dosage that worked for me (about 3-5 difficult months after my diagnosis) and I was glad that I didn’t just throw in the towel.
And in my younger years, like most teenagers, I contemplated the benefits of giving up on life when it got too hard or too stressful, especially with some of the things I experienced at home. And even at my lowest, most frustrating point, all it took to know that it wasn’t even a choice I could make was to remember how it had previously affected my family and how it would affect them if I chose to take my own life. I had a family member who took his own life and can remember the grief that ran through my family, even though I was quite young at the time. I had another family member who attempted suicide on several occasions and seeing her in the hospital was a terrifying experience. It threw into sharp relief what the consequences of those actions might be for me. Every time I felt desperate or depressed and felt like no one understood me and wanted to give up, I remembered how I felt when others had attempted or succeeded in taking their own lives. And it was not something I wanted to make others I cared about experience again. And still to this day, though it hasn’t happen in quite a long time, that’s all it would take for me to turn away from that path.
Why suicide is the most selfish thing you can do
While it might make you feel better, you are looking at the world through the lens of “me, me, me”, not even bothering to give a thought to how it will affect those who care about you and will be left behind to clean up the mess you’ve made, figuratively speaking. The people who will still be alive after you are gone will grieve and suffer for this choice. Whether you are a “nobody” and think that no one will notice, I’m here to say that someone will always notice when you are gone. It may not be your absentee father or your workaholic mother, your spiteful sister, your pain in the ass brother, your best friend turned enemy, the principle who thinks you are up to no good, or the friends you thought were real. But maybe it will be someone you didn’t even know you impacted. The grocery store worker you always smiled at, the sibling who looks up to you, the parent who loves you, the grandmother who has already lost more people than you realize, the friend who secretly wants to be back in your life, the teacher who think you have potential, the bus driver who knows you never cause any trouble, or the fish who is depending on you to feed him.
I know people say it all the time, but you have so much life ahead of you. High school is not the end-all, be-all that people think it is. High school is just 4 years of your life. And while people there might be cruel to you, there is probably a reason why. One that has more to do with them than it does with you. Kids can be mean but that doesn’t make them correct in their perception of you. Only you can give value to yourself and if you let their thoughts dictate your worth then you will never be happy. One opinion doesn’t make it the correct one. If you spend high school trying to find your identity instead of letting other people define it for you, then you will be much better off in the long run.
But where to begin? Whether it’s you or someone you know that you suspect is thinking about suicide, the best option is of course to talk to them, or try and convince them (or yourself) to talk to someone else. Anyone will pretty much do to start off with. Guidance counselor, teacher, principle, mutual friend, parent, or sibling. And if you would feel more comfortable talking to a stranger, there a plenty of hotlines (like the one below) that you can call and seek help. But the important thing is to open a dialogue. Communication is essential to the healing process. Don’t give up before you begin.
Read this article for a slightly different opinion.
Along the same lines, I would like to mention celebrity suicides. A phenomenon that has been sweeping across the nation and is devastating so many fans along the way. One look at how people with unlimited access to the best this world can offer is enough to make you realize that fame and fortune aren’t enough to make someone happy. It makes me wonder if they were getting the help they needed or were too self-conscious to seek it out. And it goes further to prove my opinion that finding the help you need can be unnerving but worthwhile and that your self-worth is the one that matters the most. The more you let other people define you, the unhappier you might be in the long run.
So take a deep breath and pick up the phone, or walk downstairs, or down the hall and start the conversation that could save your life or the life of someone you love.
Or if you would like to talk more to me about this, my email is firstname.lastname@example.org