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Teen Suicide: Turning Serious Sadness into Awareness and HOPE

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My daughter, Olivia, recently told me about the Netflix show "Thirteen Reasons Why" which is based on a novel about a young teenage girl who commits suicide and leaves 13 letters behind to explain the 13 reasons why she did it. This show is somewhat disturbing, but yet so real and mesmerizing. It's a subject no parent wants to talk about because it is incomprehensible to think of a child committing suicide, but face it, suicide is VERY real! Ignoring or avoiding the subject could cost your child his or her life.

I have to admit, there were times I worried about Olivia. Four years ago, Olivia had a friend in high school she knew through her soccer team, Bailey. I remember meeting Bailey at the end-of-year high school soccer awards dinner. At the dinner, Bailey was awarded an iron for being the "iron girl" of the varsity team. I remember thinking, "WOW, how cool is that to get an "iron" award!" Little did I know how Bailey would be impacting mine and Olivia's lives, not to mention thousands of others.

On May 21, 2013, I received a text from Olivia saying Bailey committed suicide. I remember thinking, "This must be a mistake. How can this be? "I also remember thinking the bigger question... "WHY?? "

Within minutes, the news about Bailey's suicide was all over our town. Teens were devastated and parents were numb. Olivia at the time was going through her own personal problems and this did not help. Olivia could not comprehend WHY Bailey would do this? I remember her telling me, "Mom, she was beautiful, popular, everyone loved her. She was an All-American soccer star and got a perfect score on the ACT. She had it all, Mom. Why did she take her life?"

Olivia, couldn't understand if Bailey had ALL of this going for her, what could be so awful that her only solution would be to end her life. Little did I know how fragile Olivia was and how badly this would affect her.

There were times Olivia couldn't go to school. She couldn't handle her emotions inside and was afraid of herself and what she was feeling. Bailey's death brought all kinds of feelings to the surface. It made what she was feeling and thinking REAL and at the same time it scared her to death. This changed my world as well because I didn't know how to deal with teen suicide and what the signs were and how to talk to Olivia about it. She was suffering and I didn't know how to get through to her and help her.

Bailey's death brought everyone together in the community — teens, parents, families. They even created a club at school called the HOPE club so kids can get together and talk about what they are feeling and deal with those feelings together, with no judgment. These teens had no idea how Bailey's suicide would affect them. I know many parents became afraid that their child would be next. Bailey's death brought awareness of how thoughts of suicide can hide behind a smile, a laugh, a hug.

The point of my blog is to keep Bailey's spirit alive through awareness of mental illness. Not every parent can recognize the signs because teens are really good at hiding them. So as a parent of a teen, what should you do?

Talk to your teen!! If he or she doesn't want to talk to you, suggest they talk to someone else. Not every teen has thoughts of committing suicide, but it is okay to talk to them about it because they may know someone who they think does. Ignorance will not save anyone. It's okay if your child is not okay. It is up to us, the parents, to be as involved in our teens' lives as much as possible, even when they don't want us to be.

Sadly enough, teens are committing suicide because they didn't seek any help or they felt no one could help them. They are literally suffering inside in their own hell. Parents think their child is fine or just moody or going through a hormone stage. That may not be true. Your teen may be suffering from depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder. But without really talking to them or getting them help, you won't know until it is too late.

Here is a video that was created for the one-year anniversary of Bailey's death. I have to warn you, it will break your heart. You will cry.

I thought I would end with the 13 reasons why NOT to commit suicide.

  • You are not alone.
  • The pain can go away without committing suicide.
  • There is help.
  • The world needs you.
  • No one can replace you.
  • You will be missed.
  • It will make things worse for the people/family you leave behind.
  • Friends and family will be devastated.
  • Your life hasn't even begun.
  • You can save someone's life.
  • You are bigger than the problem.
  • You did not come this far in life to end it so tragically and so early.
  • You are worth more and loved more than you think.

Guest post by Raquel Alderman, Raising Teens Blog

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