I sit here nearly four days after hearing about a 7th grader from Michigan commit suicide and succeed in his attempt. Yesterday, I hear from another high school in Michigan, where there has been 10 suicides in the past three years. Last year, a school in upstate New York experienced three suicides in three months. One suicide in any school is too many. Two, makes us start to ask questions.
About a month ago, I was asked, “Jeff, how often do you hear about teen suicides?” This question quieted me quickly because nobody had ever asked me such a question. I pondered this question for a minute and I replied with a heavy heart, “Every day!”, I said. Since that day, I have read every email and facebook post with a more determined sense of the reason why teens think suicide is the answer and I have concluded there are many reasons. Allow me to outline three of the main reasons, I feel is the reason that teens think ending their lives is the answer to their troubles.
However, let me start off by saying that suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. I wish I could reach every teen and speak to their heart and say, “It will get better . . .!” I have been there. I was suicidal twice in my life. The first time I was a junior in high school. The second time was 21 years old. Each time, I was very close and decided to check myself into the hospital. I didn’t want to die. I knew this too shall pass, but the day to day was too unbearable. Today, I can’t imagine . . . My life is perfect.
Here are three reasons why I think teens are contemplating suicide and what you can do to prevent it or intervene. Regardless, if you are thinking that suicide is the answer to your problems, please have the courage to check yourself into a your nurse, counselor, speak to your parents, or call 911. Get help immediately. Also, if you know of a friend that is thinking about suicide, don’t think you can save them. Don’t think that keeping quiet is the right answer. You must tell an authority figure immediately and get that friend the professional help they need.
Reason #1 – Life’s Pressures Too Much
Whether it is family life, school, academics, sports, acceptance, bullying, sexual orientation, etc., teens today aren’t taught how to cope with the pressures of life and the challenges. Life is hard and it will always be hard. It isn’t about having money that answers all problems we face in life. You must deal with each problem you are faced with accordingly. Don’t be an avoider. When something is wrong, fix it. Don’t be afraid to look in the mirror and say, “How can I fix this?” “What can I do to make things better?” This is about courage and having the ability to address issues as they happen.
It will get better too. Remember, no matter what you are dealing with. This too shall pass! Life’s pressures give us a sense of appreciation. A rainy day makes us appreciate the sunny days.
Reason #2 – Acceptance
There are many teens that don’t know how to fit into a social circle. I think facebook, computer games, and social media have done us more harm than they have good. However, I think social media has given us more opportunities than we’ve ever had before, but don’t let social media be your way of communicating.
We used to have to go outside and throw ourselves into conversation, games, sports, activities, dances, and parties. Today’s teens are so comfortable being alone on a computer that being in a social setting can be awkward. Therefore, developing face to face friends can be a challenge. This leads to being excluded and not accepted in social circles.
Don’t think for a second that today’s teens are sensitive enough to understand that you are sitting in the corner. Remember, teens and their frontal development system haven’t come into maturity yet. All teens do is think of themselves. Not their fault. They haven’t reached that maturity yet.
You have to mingle and get yourself involved in school sports, activities, and social events that give you the opportunity to meet friends and get involved. Plus, this helps your self-esteem and also separates you from negative influences.
The first person you need acceptance from is yourself anyways. You can’t change people, places, and things. Love yourself first.
Reason #3 – Bullying and Cyber-Bullying
This can be categorized under life’s problems and also acceptance, but I felt it needed it’s own point.
Bullying has taken on it’s own course far different than the bullying we adults used to deal with. First of all, when we were growing up bullying was between the school hours of 7:30 am – 3:30 pm. Today, it is 24 hours and most likely on the internet, texting, facebook, myspace, twitter, etc.
There is the bully and there is the person being bullies. Allow me to make my point here. The bully is often someone that has low self-respect and therefore, feels they need to build themselves up by tearing other people down. That is how they get their personal fulfillment. This will not change. It needs to be addressed to teens early on in life and taught how to be fulfilled other than by comparing yourself to others.
I want to speak to the bullied. Listen, you can’t give people this power over you. They are not different than anybody else. We all have been placed in this world for one reason and that is “TO LEARN”, it’s just that we are all at different phases in this learning process.
Being bullied means that you are giving this person or people the ammunition to continue insulting or saying things about you. When it effects you, it’s because you are still searching for that identity in your own life. You don’t discover who you are, you create the person you want to be.
The absolute best way to deal with bullying:
- Remain Calm – Don’t let them know they are effecting you
- Don’t give them power – They are nobody more important than you
- Stay in control – You make them look bad and you look good
- Ignore them – Absolutely IGNORE them or say something like, “I am sorry you feel that way!”
** Jeff Yalden is a teen expert and one of the top teen motivational speakers in the world. His message, “About Life” covers and addresses teen issues that teens are facing as they are growing up and trying to figure out their purpose in life. Jeff Yalden started his youth motivational speaking career in 1992, and since, has addressed high school assemblies and middle school assemblies in all 50 states, 48 different countries, and every province in Canada. If you are looking for a school speaker that can connect with your teens in a leadership conference or school assembly, look no further . . . Check Jeff out at www.JeffYalden.com or www.JeffYaldenBlog.com.