I use to think, “It couldn’t happen in my family.” I’m here to say it can happen in any family!
Approximately 4,600 youth die each year from suicide according to the CDC. Suicide is the 3rd leading cause of death for youth ages 10-24. These are scary statistics!
I am a teacher at a local elementary school and get suicide prevention training every year. I know it’s a serious subject and always give the subject great thought and compassion for those who suffer. I never once for a moment ever thought I would need the information given to help my son. Suicide is what occurs in other families that I don’t know and who live far away where it doesn’t really effect my life. Wrong… It occurs in families everywhere! Nobody is ammune to having someone they love commit suicide. We don’t want to believe that someone we love would want to hurt themselves. We don’t always understand why they would want to take their own life. We are afraid that others will judge if our child is not “normal”. We have to be able to see our child, their imperections and their stregthns, and love, embrace, and except them for who they are. Suicide can happen to any family at any time, nobody is ammuine.
How do I know if my child is suicidal? First you have to know the signs. There is a ton of information out there. Even if you don’t suspect your child is suicidal knowing the signs may let you help someone else. These signs can slowly happen over time and may not be as obvious as some might think. I am lucky in that my family saw the signs alerted me and I was able to get my son the help that he needed. I had a happy black haired boy, with big brown eyes, and the cutest dimples. As a mom I couldn’t fathem him ever purposfully taking his own life. But here I am. My son tried to take his own life. I am fortunate in the fact that he is still with me today. My heart breaks at the thought of mothers who have lost children to suicide. I am devisated by their loses.
My son Mack was in 7th grade when he began to get depressed. I didn’t know it at the time, but looking back it is all too clear. He began to be very negative about life. He hated school. His grades went from A’s to mostly C’s and a few B’s. He hated his siblings. He hated me. I thought this was “normal” behavior. Now I know he was beginning to slip into depression. In 8th grade he began to isolate himself from the family. It became harder and harder to pull him out of his room and spend time with us. When he was forced out of his room he would mean and grumpy. He wasn’t that much fun to be around. Now he hated himself too. He still hated school. His grades slipped more. Now he had all C’s and a D. I explained it away in my head as he was “adjusting to harder curriculum”. In 9th grade he was able to join the robotics team. This was the moment he had waited many years for. Since he was 8 he had built and programmed Lego Mindstorm kits. He loved robotics and was excited to be on the team. He spent all day, everyday, of his Christmas Vacation at the school working on building their robot for competition. After their first competition he stopped going to meetings and participating. When asked why he said, “Our mentor doesn’t like me.” When asked how he came to this conclusion he stated, “I can just tell”. Nothing I or anyone else said could convince him he was wrong. He eventually quite the team. I was shocked. I told myself he was simply not interested in robotics anymore. Looking back I can’t believe I wasn’t more concerned. He still hated school. In fact he was failing 3 classes. I stood over him everyday and printed off countless missing assignment reports. This was to no avail. He had to go to summer school to make up science and math. My smart young man was giving up on himself. The last day of school he called me in a panic… he frantically begged me to pick him up from school. I did not and dismissed his plea. I found out later that his core group of friends and him had a falling out. He was devastated. We moved to a new house that summer. It was in the same town, but different school district. I told him I would continue to drive him to his old high school as he had requested a few months back when we first began to look for houses. He asked me to enroll him in the new high school because he wanted to “start over”. I didn’t really understand what he meant, but having him go to the school closer to home was more convinent. I didn’t question his motives, I just excepted him. His behavior became more unbearable. He now thought it was exceptable to call me names. I was a dumb!@#, a b@#$%, and always stupid. We would take away video games, cell phone use, and lecture him until we were blue in the face. No change. In fact the behavior got worse and worse. Now I was simply allowing him to stay in his room all the time so I wouldn’t have to subject myself or the rest of the family to his bad behavior. Looking back I can see this was a cry for help. A plea to swoop in and save him. I feel liked I failed him. I let him suffer for years and did nothing to help. How could I be so blind to what was happening right in front of my eyes. Some might say I have too many kids… Others I was too busy working… Maybe I didn’t want to see because I felt it was somehow a bad reflection on me. There is a stigma associated with depression and other mental diseases. Nobody wants to judged or looked upon badly because of brain chemistry they can not control. So we ignore. We excuse behavior and signs away. Then one day he said “I’ve had enough”. He gave his handheld game system to his brother and bought him a new game because “I don’t want it”. He took a bottle of pills from grandpa’s cabinet and took them… Grandma discovered the missing pills connected the dots to an earlier comment about not wanting to be in this life and called me. I searched his room and found the bottle. He grew infuriated. How dare I foil his plan. He told me, “It was going to be painless”. I convinced him to get in the car and go to the hospital. We were there all night, a very long sleepless night. He was evaluated by social workers, docotors and a pychiatrist. In the end he agreed to not harming himself and I took him home. I couldn’t believe they were letting me take him home. I felt so unprepared. I had no idea what to do. My biggest question was “How do I keep him alive?”
A new journey had begun. How can I make my son whole again? How can I be a better mother? How can I become better equipped to handle my new family situation? There is hope…there is always hope if you look for it. After all there is no rainbow without a storm.