Looking up from my essays, I pause to take in the flourish of activity around me. My juniors are in groups of 4, making posters to display the patterns of development they have just learned about. It is noisy, and no one is still. They are writing, drawing, looking for textual evidence, collaborating. It's a beautiful scene. I have only known them for going-on 4 weeks now, and they make me so proud.
Yet I know that one, at least one, of my students, who walks in and does their work and walks out, is hurting.
I won't always see the signs. No, the depressed are often masters of deception. I don't know if my class is a bright spot in their day, or the last fight to get through to get home, or somewhere in between.
But I know this much.
We lose 800,000 people each year to suicide--that translates to one death every 40 seconds. It is the second leading cause of death for ages 15-29.* It is far, far too many and we have waited far, far too long in order to address the problem.
These students, laughing, working together, seemingly happily building their posters, fall perfectly into that age group. We work frantically to ensure the best for them. We implement RTI strategies, teach SEL lessons, build school spirit, complete a Universal Screener to hopefully catch those students slipping through the cracks. But the truth of the matter is, for as many of these kids who may be hurting, few are easily identified. They are experts at hiding their darkness.
|Master of Deception: I was far in the depth of|
PPPTSD, PPA and PPOCD here. Could you
I know how that darkness feels. I know from my teenage self, and my adult self. I have watched those I love deal with the wake of suicide, and I have been an outside observer as we lose those in the limelight to suicide.
I feel visceral reactions, now, to outcries of "HOW SELFISH" or "They had a family who loved them!" Or "weren't they thinking about how others would feel?"
Well, therein lies the problem. All you can do when you're depressed is think. It's like the page in "Oh, the Places You'll Go" where everyone is stuck in the waiting place, only with thinking. You think and you think and you think and your thoughts become so circular that they prove themselves before your very eyes. Your thoughts become so overwhelming, so powerful, that you have no choice but to believe them. Couple that with outside stressors, unsympathetic family or friends, and the "pull-yourself-up-by-the-bootstraps" narrative of our culture, and you have a surefire recipe for disaster. Those reactions are simply that--reactions. They are not proactive and they do not solve any future problems.
It's high time we get proactive. It's time we talk to our students, our kids, our family and our friends about mental illness. About depression. About dark times that we swore would never end. About solutions, about possibilities, about hope.
I look at these students, these precious students, all of whom are someone's baby. Someone held these kids and stroked their face lovingly and tickled their bellies, the same way I do with Clay on a daily basis. Every single one of these students matter. Every single person on this earth matters. And the fact that we have had to say goodbye to 800,000 this year, or 12 since I started typing this--it's too much to bear. We must cultivate a culture of acceptance, where people who are struggling feel safe to reach out, to cry out, to scream out, that they need help.
So, to my students, on World Suicide Prevention Day: Hear my voice. Hear me say that I am here for you. That other teachers are here for you. That our guidance staff and administration are here for you. And you, yes you, you any person thinking that suicide is your only option, you were a student once, too. You are someone's baby.
We need you here.
We will help however we can. Pick up the phone and call a hotline. Confide in a friend or a family member. Tell a teacher. Speak. Tell someone. You are not weak. You are strong.
To my students, on World Suicide Prevention Day: Be the light. Be a positive influence in your peers' lives. If you know that someone is struggling, reach out to them, and reach out for help--tell someone that you know they are contemplating suicide.
They may get mad at you. They might even hate you.
But you could save them. And that is worth it.
To my students, on World Suicide Prevention Day: I will not give up on you. I will not quiet my voice in a sea of apathy. I will make sure it is heard, and known, and LOUD, to show you that you are capable of the same. Let us band together, work together, and fight together. I know that together, we can protect your generation from another 800,000 losses.
"The power of one, if fearless and focused, is formidable, but the power of many working together is better."
If you need help, and you don't know where to start, start here. If you know someone struggling, you can call this number as well. 1-800-273-TALK (8255)
*Facts taken from iasp