By: Janice Johnson-Plumer
As I read time and time again how many of our youth are being bullied, feel isolated, and commit suicide, I wonder how that can be prevented. As I was researching this topic, I came across an organization called The Jason Foundation, which was born out of a father’s loss after his son committed suicide.
According to the website, females attempt suicide more than three times as often as males. However, males die by suicide more than four times as often as the females. As I ponder this statistic, as a mother of a twelve-year-old male, I wonder if I am doing all the right things as a parent to protect him from the dangers of bullying and peer pressure. I recall that when I was growing up, bullying wasn’t the norm – if you didn’t want to do something you simply didn’t do it. Now it seems suicide is a way for youth to not deal with their fears, emotions or pressures of trying to fit in.
As a parent, how can we recognize the signs of suicide? Many times the signs can look like typical teenage behavior.
Here are some points The Jason Foundation has identified as signs and or concerns:
- Suicide threats: They can be indirect and or direct statements such as “I’d be better off dead,” or “I hate my life.” The threats are not always verbal. They can also appear in the form of text messages or social media posts such as Facebook and Twitter.
- Making statements about feeling hopeless or worthless
- Preoccupation or obsession with death or suicide
- Making final arrangements: Saying good-bye to friends and family, giving away prized possessions, and putting their affairs in order.
- Engaging in reckless behavior (such as drugs or alcohol) or taking unnecessary risks
- Exhibiting out of character behavior
- Losing interest in things one cares about
As parents, we do everything we can to protect our children from being hurt. We are there to comfort them, provide for them and make sure they are happy. It breaks me to hear when my son says someone called him a name or makes fun of his weight. He may say it doesn’t bother him, but deep down I know it does. When those moments do come I make sure I encourage and uplift him with positive words. I always tell him I love him and that he’s smart and handsome. As mothers and fathers we need to speak words that are going to lift our children up so they know they can overcome any obstacle. I always tell my son he can come to us with anything good or bad. He doesn’t need to feel ashamed or guilty.
I remember being his age and my parents were not always positive. They worked hard and they made sure I had everything I ever wanted, but what I wanted was to hear “I love you.” It wasn’t until my mother was diagnosed with cancer and her health was deteriorating that we started saying it more regularly. Every time I would leave the hospital I would say I love you. I don’t ever want to be in that position with my son. I want to tell him now while I have my health.
Suicide is a silent killer, but it doesn’t have to be. Us parents need to make some noise and let our children hear and know they are loved, they are appreciated, and let them know they can be a success and make a difference.
How else can we ensure our children are protected from suicide? I’d love to hear your thoughts.