Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Death in our Community

This past weekend, a student from my son's high school successfully committed suicide.  No, it's not someone I know, or someone that my son even knows.

But that doesn't matter.

The ripples from a suicide go well beyond the grieving family.  All of the people who thought they were this person's close friends now wonder if they missed a sign, wonder if they could have said something that would change the past.  People who knew this kid as a casual friend or an acquaintance wonder the same thing.  And people who don't know this kid now wonder if any of their friends feel depressed enough to try suicide.

His past and present teachers quietly cry in the background, convinced that they could have stopped this, if only...if only they had done something, anything, differently.  School counselors alternate between sadness and rage:  sadness at the senseless death and rage at the system that keeps them so busy with paperwork that it sometimes feels as though they don't have time to be with the kids.

As for us parents, we wonder if we might miss signs with our own kids.  We wonder about our kid's friends who seem depressed, and we worry that someday that kid will just not be around.

With all the crap and drama in the world, it is easy to overlook problems closer to home.  It's easy to say, "Oh, he'll be all right.  It's just a phase."  Or "She's just looking for attention.  If you give it to her, she'll just act out more."

Even if it is a "phase", that doesn't make it hurt any less.  And if someone is feeling so ignored that they act up, ignoring them more is not the answer.

I am angry right now - angry at the way society poo-poos mental health issues and tells people to "get over it" without any knowledge or understanding of what "it" is.  I am angry at the way politicians use mental health as a political tool.  I am angry at how we have a blind spot to things we can't see; injuries to a person's psyche don't exist if we can't see them.

But I'm also incredibly sad - sad that this child thought his life was so worthless that death sounded like the better option.  Now. we'll never know what that life might have become, because it's no more.

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