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Articles tagged with: suicide


It Gets Better - With Our Help

One of the hardest things I've dealt with as a teacher is counseling students with suicidal thoughts. The high school years are so difficult with hormones, crushes, insecurities, identity angst, parental battles, and grade issues. At a time when they most need support and approval, many teens are disowned (literally or figuratively) by their parents for being gay. The rejection of a parent is devastating; our parents have so much control over our self-esteem. We believe what they tell us. We're not at an age yet, even as high schoolers, to see how wrong they can be – about us, about sex, about everything.
And sometimes they are wrong. A student once shared a book with me called Toxic Parents. I don't even know if it's in print any more, but it's about how emotionally damaging parent/child relationships can be when parents are controlling and judgmental – and when those parents take away their children's rights and their dignity.

I've often tried to tell depressed students how much better things will be when they're just a little older, when they're away from home and on their own. I've tried to point out all the things in their favor. I remember telling one young man that he was smart, and good looking, and talented, and had many friends, but he didn't see it that way – because I was describing his life from MY perspective. And, whether they have supportive parents or not, that's what's missing for so many teens who give up – perspective. There's no way for them to see their adult lives down the road, away from the cruelties of teenage peers, and sometimes away from parents who want to take away their identities.

This is why I applaud the "It Gets Better" project. As a straight adult, I can't tell gay students their lives will get better. I can't speak on a personal level to the unique problems they face in a homophobic society. But gay adults can. And they have. I am so encouraged by the impact that videos from all over the world, from all types of people of all ages can have on middle schoolers and high schoolers who are strangers to them – because these kids are often isolated and alone with their secret. A secret that can kill, as we've seen too many times in recent months.

Please share the website It Gets Better and the Trevor Project with anyone you know who comes in contact with kids. Some statistics say that 10% of them are gay.

I've been reminded so often lately of a W.B. Yeats quote that I love, "The best lack all conviction while the worse are full of passionate intensity." If those of us who believe in love and acceptance don't aggressively voice our convictions – both at the polls and in our hometowns and among our adult peers, we're giving the bullies permission – to run our governments and to run our lives. If we don't stand up to them and speak loudly about our convictions, we're no better than the bullies themselves. Please help spread some "passionate intensity" for a more accepting world. We can't afford to lose any more young people.

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Posted in November, 2010


Love and loss

I had a long conversation yesterday with someone I haven't seen in a while. He came in town because a friend committed suicide. No one saw it coming, and he hadn't spoken to this friend in a while. The thing is, the last time I saw him was at another friend's funeral – someone he'd been really close to and had a falling out with, who was killed in a car accident a couple of years ago. My friend has attended more than his share of friends' funerals for someone in his early twenties. And the conversation we had on my porch came three weeks after I lost my father who slipped into a coma just a couple of days after being admitted to the hospital with pneumonia.

This isn't going to be a blog about how we should say all the things to people that we want to say in case we don't have the chance later. Worrying about not having time to say stuff isn't a very good reason to cough up a bunch of emotional sentiment that doesn't feel natural. What struck me yesterday was how important friendships really are. Lots of people will go to bed tonight after the funeral wondering if there was something they might have said to stop what happened. I don't think there is. In the conversations I've had with suicidal students through the years, I've learned that you can't tell them about all the things they've got going for them or how different things will look in a few months – because that's YOUR perspective, not theirs, and they can't see things from your point of view. All you can do is promise to be right there with them while they work through their crisis - but they're not likely to tell you how bad things are until it's too late. So you're left just hoping that you made it clear how much you cared for them.

I told my friend on the porch that what I remembered about him and his friend who died in the auto accident is how they always laughed when they were together, how one of them always had a crazy idea that the other thought was pure genius, how proud they were of each other's successes, and the way they pulled everyone around them into whatever rule-breaking stunt they were planning. They shared a love of music, a gift for storytelling, and a bond as brothers. I rarely saw one without the other. I never knew what caused the rift in their friendship that didn't get mended, but I'm pretty sure the friend who died knew that the love was still there. In spite of the stubbornness that kept both of them from reaching out to fix things, the months of silence didn't diminish the years of friendship they shared. I hope my friend can focus on the good times they had.

There are lots of things I might have told my father if I'd known I only had a few hours to say them. But the truth is, he knew. And I know the things he'd have told me if he could. I'm hoping that the friends who will be suffering this fresh loss we're now facing, a tragic and violent death made harder because it was exacted by the victim's own hand, will understand the same thing. Whatever pain is so great it causes someone to take his own life might temporarily overshadow his best days, but the terrible passion of that moment doesn't negate the years of companionship offered by his circle of friends. He knew you loved him. He just – for one tragic instant - couldn't find a way to love himself. He leaves you behind to stand as a testament to the good times. If he could, he'd ask you to be happy for the memories you'll have forever, and the friendship you were lucky to share.

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Posted in May, 2010