GUEST POST BY SHARON POWERS
TRIGGER WARNING: SUICIDE AND MENTAL HEALTH
In honor of Suicide Prevention Awareness Month, I wanted to reach out and tell you that you matter. Your life matters and your future awaits.
I thought long and hard about how to draw you in to read about suicide. It can be an uncomfortable subject to confront. Taking a sip of tea, I looked down at the tiny paper square of text floating outside my mug. Then it hit me.
The tea bag’s message read, “This life is a gift” (thanks Yogi tea). While cliche, it’s still a powerful reminder.
Just to be here—alive today—you have beaten many odds. Your existence had about a one in four quadrillion chance of happening. Your life is a miracle. Even if math isn’t your thing, you can see what slim chances you overcame.
You are amazing, but you won’t always feel that way. Having worked as a middle school counselor, I know the plight of the teen years. Friendship drama. Low self-esteem. Rejection. Self-doubt. Anger. Frustration. Family stuff. School stress. All this stuff is pretty standard, right? For some kids it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Early adolescence is also the time when mental health issues emerge, and that’s why I’m so passionate about helping teens.
Many tears were shed in my school counseling office. Some even unexplainable, but valid nonetheless.
I have seen kids help their parents understand what they are going through and advocate to get the help they need. I have known students struggling with depression and suicidal ideation in 8th grade who have gone on to graduate high school and attend college.
Did their problems magically disappear? Probably not, but with the right channels of support, empathy, positive coping skills, and encouragement a new day was born. A day of opportunity and hope.
There’s always hope; it will never abandon you.
As you go through life, hardship will slam into your world. There will be moments of sadness. Pain will feel consuming and exhausting at times. Giving up can feel like the easiest option. But don’t.
Brighter days are ahead.
Most of these slumps are temporary—be it days, weeks or months. However, if there ever comes a time when you can’t seem to shake the sadness or hide from the despair, reach out. Tell someone.
It’s okay to be sad even if you don’t know why, but you must not keep this a secret.
If you are an adult reading this, empathy will be your greatest asset aside from connecting with mental health professionals.
There are so many caring people who can be there for you, if you let them. You just can’t be all cryptic. You have to be forthcoming and share what’s going on. Friends. Parents. Teachers. Counselors. Religious Leaders. Your friend’s parents. Coaches. Community leaders. Neighbors. People want to help.
You may even have to reach out to more than one person to make the right connection. But you must ask for help. If you have a friend in need, get them help too.
Remember that getting here wasn’t easy and your life journey will welcome many ups and downs, but you are strong and resilient.
Despite how miraculous life can be, a suicide occurs every 13 minutes. Why the prevalence when life is so precious?
To prevent suicide, we have to understand that mental health concerns are not selfish acts or something you just snap out of after a pep talk.
One study reported that almost 80% of kids don’t get the mental health treatment they need.
But if you are reading this, there’s hope. Together we can nudge those numbers in the right direction so more kids can get help. Your voice and courage can change mental health for yourself and future generations. Speaking out will save lives.
There are a host of celebrities and musicians like Demi Lovato who have championed for mental health reform and helped to change the way we view real illnesses like Depression and Anxiety. While the voices of Ashton Irwin, Lady Gaga and Kate Middleton go along way, they aren’t enough.
We need you. Your life matters.
We also need support from adults to promote the notion that a person’s mental health is just as important as their physical health.
Kids and teens from every walk of life can be instrumental in shaping the future landscape of mental health in our world. Now let’s get to work on this.
What ideas do you have to become a mental health advocate? What can you do in your own community or school to fight against the stigma of mental health? Who can you reach out to? Who can you talk to about mental health?
If you or someone you know is at risk please contact the Suicide Prevention Lifeline by calling 1-800-273-TALK (8255). You’ll be connected to a trained counselor at a crisis center in your area 24/7.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Sharon Powers is a writer and educator. She is the founder of the website In Between Years (InBetweenYears.com), delivering insight and resources to parents and educators that support children and teens. Drawing on previous experience as a school counselor, Sharon is a strong advocate of adolescent mental wellness and building resiliency, along with positive coping skills in kids. Sharon's work has been featured on popular parenting and lifestyle websites. She holds an MS in Education from Old Dominion University and a BS in Journalism from James Madison University. Sharon is married to a Naval Officer and they'll soon be relocating to California from the East Coast.