Compassionate Love: Displaying Compassion for Those Who Struggle with Mental Illness (c)2016 Nancy Virden
Yesterday was my first of hopefully many visits to Cleveland High Schools to share my story with students in the 9th-12th grades. My head swirled in the honor of being there, a deep sense of responsibility, love for the youth, and wonder at the colossal lack of education about this topic among teens and teachers alike.
Kids are dying.
I witnessed expressions change, some from laughing to tears, others from stoic and lost to rapt attention. In some cases, I was able to recognize who it is that is only surviving each day. One girl smiles yet inwardly retreats, a boy is popular yet questions his worth, another student is unpopular, and a smart, creative sort of fellow have each considered ending their lives. They confirmed my instincts with slightly raised hands or veiled nodding heads when I asked who has thought of suicide.
There were many of them. It’s going to take more than one person visiting these schools to affect change.
As the day unfolded I learned the topics of depression and suicide had not been covered before in any of the classes I attended. Teachers told me the school has not addressed it. I came there to speak with students, yet the adults had so many questions it is clear they need information too.
Almost all the people of any age expressed surprise at hearing that 1 in 5 teenagers are presently struggling with a mental illness that interferes with their functioning each day. 1 in 10 is dealing with major depression or bipolar depression. Yet these subjects are not discussions.
Suicide is the third leading cause of death nationally for teenagers.* Combine cancer, heart disease, AIDS, birth defects, stroke, pneumonia, influenza, and chronic lung disease, and the number of deaths still does not equal how many teens die from suicide.** Statistically, 11 youth die by suicide every day in the U.S.A., and for every suicide death, there are 50-200 attempts.***
Suicide is preventable. Our teenagers do not have to feel hopeless.
This little light of mine shined yesterday in the dark. More lamps are necessary, everywhere.
For that reason, this blog series will focus on warning signs, risk factors, behaviors to watch out for, and the mood disorder of depression. We will cover common myths such as doubting the seriousness of multiple attempts or attempts that did not result in death.
It’s all important.
Comments are always welcome (see tab below). NOTE: I am not a doctor or mental health professional. I speak only from personal experiences with and observations of mental illness. In no way is this website intended to substitute for professional mental health care.
If you are struggling emotionally today or feeling suicidal, or concerned about someone who is, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Hope and help are yours.
* http://www.cdc.gov/healthyyouth/data/yrbs/pdf/trends/us_suicide_trend_yrbs.pdf (2013 CDC WISQARS)