Teen suicide: Two must-read books
The preciousness of life is often overlooked. Death wakes us up. Senseless events such as teen suicide force us to confront the impermanence of life.
News of death feels like it could swallows us whole, especially when it’s suicide because we feel such guilt. Why didn’t I see the signs? Maybe she’d still be here if I had…
Facing the waves of grief, we fear being swept away and left gasping for breath. Eventually the sobs subside and the realization dawns that we haven’t drowned. Breathing again, we wipe away the tears, but uncertainty remains.
Death makes us feel vulnerable when our preference is to feel powerful, approved of and safe. Teens have power struggles with their parents, and they seek approval from peers. Some fight back when they don’t feel safe while others run and hide.
Those who experience helplessness in the face of adversity don’t feel they have the power to change the situation and can’t cope. The resulting depression and victimization may lead to a perpetual state of reacting rather than responding.
Life can be cruel. We’ve all felt the sting of having been bullied, but everyone deals with being harassed differently. The way the mind copes with struggles will determine whether they inspire growth or trigger a downward spiral.
Desperate feelings of despair in some lead to isolation for protection sake. The only option they see is to exit life in order to escape their pain. Why is it that connection is so hard?
Making sense of suicide is hard too. Why does facing the difficulties cause overwhelm in some yet builds inner strength in others?
Pain gets our attention and can motivate us to change. It evokes a response from the depth of our being. Truly experiencing pain offers the precious lesson of compassion. When you’re hurting, let it lead you to softness rather than destruction.
Those who blame others are out of touch with their own pain, as well as everybody else’s. A bully is so hurtful because he’s disconnected from his pain and from that of others.
Adults who are in touch with what hurts in their life are better able to provide a safe place for troubled teens to express their painful emotions.
It seems logical to push pain away, but healing requires moving toward it. One helpful strategy teachers and parents have employed is reading and recommending books that open the door to connection and discussion.
Writing with voices that resonates with teens, Jay Fisher and Carolyn Mackler, YA (Young Adult) novelists, tell it like it is for teens, including issues of sex and suicide.
Readers of Jay Fisher’s “Thirteen Reasons Why” expressed a deeper understanding about the reactions to their bullying taunts. His book has changed the minds of many who had planned an attempt because they began to contemplate the effects on others if they took their own life.
Read more about Jay’s suspenseful and enlightening book starring Hannah who kills herself in the first chapter, but narrates her story of bullying through the tapes she left behind. Type the book title into the search bar at www.recorderonline.com to locate my previous column about it.
Carolyn Mackler, author of “Tangled,” details the angst of teenagers as they question their worth. Told from the perspective of four teens, “Tangled” gives the backstory of their interwoven vulnerabilities and insecurities. Skye has it all: looks, fame, wealth and popularity, but inside she feels dead and wants to end it. Check out “Tangled” to see what happens to her.
When growth opportunities disguised as hard times show up, they can be used as fuel to transform life. Adults aren’t likely to have answers for the angst teens experience, but they can initiate conversations and then listen without judging. Staying connected as they grow into their own is critical to the survival of troubled teenagers and to their success.
If you need to talk, call 1-800-SUICIDE or logon to www.hopeline.com.
Kristi McCracken, author of two children’s books and a long time teacher in the South Valley, can be reached at email@example.com.