Mar 14, 2010

A Cry for Help

My son came home from school a few days ago and I could tell something was wrong. He was quiet and withdrawn. As I sat down with him, the story he told me filled me with sorrow and made me reflect on my own life, and what I could do as a mother to avoid something so tragic happening in my family.

That day, the school psychologist visited his class to talk to them about suicide. The older sister of one of his classmates had hung herself over the weekend. They were able to revive her, but she died the next day.

My heart was heavy the whole day. I couldn’t stop thinking about the young girl’s mother and how she must feel. I also considered the desperation the girl must have been feeling to follow through with something so life altering.

There was a time in my life when I contemplated suicide, and I have scars to prove it. I look back now, from an adult perspective, and realize that my sadness at that time was much of my own making. I understand now that the inability to forgive myself for my sins and shortcomings was a motivating factor in my suicide thought process.

Youth often have difficulty placing past actions in perspective. They may feel that the steps they’ve taken are irreversible and that their prospects for a happy life have been forever shattered. If parents can keep the lines of communication open and remain accessible to their children—and sympathetic to their problems—they can do much to help dispel these fears. Unconditional love and understanding are the tools that work best.

Face it. Being a teenager is hard. There are many new social, academic, and personal pressures. And for teens who have additional problems such as divorce, substance abuse, or conflict at home to deal with, life can seem even more difficult.

Teens think deeply—about their existence in the world, the meaning of life, and other profound ideas. It is not uncommon for them to also think about death. In some cases, death even seems romantic—think about Romeo and Juliet. However, wishing to be dead, thinking about suicide, or feeling helpless and hopeless about life, are signs that a teen is in need of help.

So what makes some teens begin to think about suicide? I think one of the biggest factors is depression. A teen who has suicidal feelings often sees no other way out of problems or emotional pain they are experiencing. Depression also distorts a person’s viewpoint. They tend to focus only on their failures and the difficulties in their life. These negative feelings are often exaggerated and it is easy to become convinced there is nothing to live for. In my case, it was an attempt to communicate my desperate unhappiness—a plea for help.

I think it’s very important as parents to know the warning signs, and realize that no child is immune. Here’s a list of the most common ones:
• pulling away from friends or family
• changes in eating or sleeping habits
• major changes in appearance
• talk about feeling hopeless or feeling guilty
• talk about suicide and death
• self-destructive behavior (drinking alcohol, taking drugs, or driving too fast, for example)
• no desire to take part in favorite things or activities

I personally feel that teaching our children about repentance and the Savior’s unconditional love goes a long way in preventing the overwhelming feelings that inevitably precede suicidal thoughts. The message that it is never too late is vital for young people to understand.

"Lost and Found" by Greg Olsen

We have a loving Savior who already died for our sins. Repentance is not a one time opportunity. He suffered for everything we will ever do wrong. His unconditional love is the key.

Suicide is a very real thing that affects the lives of many families. It is important to remember that most people who contemplate suicide really don’t want to die. They simply want the pain to stop. The atonement not only covers our sins, it covers all of our pain and disappointments as well.

Other resources:

New Era: Questions and Answers
Suicide: Some Things We Know, and Some We Do Not by M. Russell Ballard
NAMI – Teen Suicide



L.T. Elliot said...

When I was young, I lost a friend to suicide. At the time, I didn't understand how someone who seemed so happy would want to take their own life. There were so many things I felt, wondered, and despaired about. I can only imagine how much worse it was for his family--and for him.

Thank you for being brave enough to talk about this. It needs to be said. I, too, believe that the Savior suffered for our sins AND our pains and that through Him, all our wounds can be healed. God bless, Kim. I'm so glad you're still here.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the M. Russell Ballard link.
It is oddly very difficult to completely recognize when we are decending into such a place as to believe the world is better off without us or that there is no other way out of our problems than to take our own life. And as strange as it may sound, these lies can be believable. I would beg those who judge harshly to remember that yes, suicide is a choice, but the depression is not - it can be severe and an extremly difficult, long lasting, reoccuring condition to pull out of.
It's been 15 years since my attempt. I've never forgotten that place I was in. It is a true miracle to be alive and happy once again, to know better how to approach life's burdens, and to realize exactly who the Savior is to me.

Crystal Cook said...

Thank you so much for this. I agree with everything you said. What a powerful and important message to share. The anonymous comment was very helpful and entirely true.

Rachelle said...

What a great post, Kim. This is a topic that makes many people uncomfortable, but we need to be aware and educated about. Good job.

CL Beck, author said...

Great post, Kim, and thank you for sharing an important turning point in your life. You're a brave soul to be willing to talk about it.

Keith Fisher said...

I thought I commented on this back in March. I repeat what I thought then . . . Thanks for sharing this. I'm very glad you are still with us. You are a good influence on many people including the eleven members of your imediate family. Good Job.

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