#JamesDonaldson On #MentalHealth – The Tragedy Of #Teen #Suicide

  • Mark Koonz Emmanuel Lutheran Church
Teen on bike
Tim Graf,

The worst thing about #teen #suicide is that it happens. Only a few weeks ago, Apple News highlighted the rise in #teen suicides. The same headlines have appeared for several years in other news sources. The #teen #suicide rate was rising before #COVID and has not abated since #COVID #isolation started.

Along with #school shootings and far too many #teens/20-somethings choosing methamphetamine and street life over working toward personal goals, these suicides continue to be outward signs of the breakdown of our society. Loss of a sense of community is also evident in other ways which indicate we have spiritual problems that do not go away.

With many #teens, as with #adults, there can be a sense that life is too painful and they just want the pain to end. In some cases, #suicide may be attempted out of anger and a desire to punish someone.

Grieving friends and family are left behind, usually with a sense of deep pain and loss. There can also be a great deal of anger felt towards the person who chose this end.

#Schools and churches are warned against too much drama and romanticizing of the deceased in public ceremonies, out of fear of copycat suicides. These happen when a disturbed person is attracted to all the public displays of sorrow and attention that go with a memorial service for one of their peers.

While we can never know a person’s actual thoughts and feelings after the event of death, we search for a pattern that helps make sense. The “exact reason” may elude us, because each person faces the world in his or her own way. Yet survivors have a need to find a rational explanation for an irrational action, and sometimes we cannot bridge the gap.

#James Donaldson notes:
Welcome to the “next chapter” of my life… being a voice and an advocate for #mentalhealthawarenessandsuicideprevention, especially pertaining to our younger generation of students and student-athletes.
Getting men to speak up and reach out for help and assistance is one of my passions. Us men need to not suffer in silence or drown our sorrows in alcohol, hang out at bars and strip joints, or get involved with drug use.
Having gone through a recent bout of #depression and #suicidalthoughts myself, I realize now, that I can make a huge difference in the lives of so many by sharing my story, and by sharing various resources I come across as I work in this space.  #http://bit.ly/JamesMentalHealthArticle

Order your copy of James Donaldson’s latest book,
From The Verge of Suicide to a Life of Purpose and Joy


One observation by #counselors is that, preceding the #suicideattempt, there is usually a combination of significant problems which any #youth would normally find stressful, any of which can lead to a loss of inner strength or sense of #depression. Some #youth can overcome these sooner than others, and no two people face problems in exactly the same way.

One hardship might be the loss of a #parent due to death (or the absence of a #parent due to divorce), combined with a move to a new home. The loss of the old home compounds the sense of loss, especially if that familiar space brought a sense of safety and the comfort of shared memories. So both losses together form a powerful combination.

Another component might be the loss of a #parent followed by the remarriage of the surviving #parent, which also changes the dynamics of the home.

None of this is about blaming the #parents or family of the deceased. This is about recognizing stressors that have to be overcome on the part of the #teen. Many depressed #teens never become suicidal.

Today the combination of home and #school trouble is powerful, and often includes shaming attacks at #school or on #socialmedia, wherein someone is ridiculed constantly by his or her peers.

Or mood-altering drug use may be involved.

Among the younger set of suicides that I have worked with, #teens to 20s, and in each case #alcoholabuse was involved. There may have been a fight with #parents or breakup with a girlfriend, but #alcohol always intensified the anger or despair.

How can we help? Any way we can enhance a sense of community. #Teens need friends their own age but also #adults who are available to talk. Not as pals, but as friendly sources of encouragement.

Often the issue is not recurring or linked to #mentalillness, unless mind-altering drugs have damaged the developing brain or hormonal imbalance is present.

For many #teens there is a one-time crisis. When he or she cannot think beyond the moment and life feels too painful, a friend who “stays with” may help the wounded spirit survive until the crisis passes. For many #teens who do not make the attempt, the crisis does not recur with the same intensity.

Yet in many cases the decision to die is hidden, either with silence or with unusual cheerfulness. When you hear it spoken, demand a promise that the attempt will not be made and, when calling by phone, that he/she will stay alive to see you. This does not fix everything, but may prove helpful. Meanwhile you should stay by his or her side until crisis help can get involved.

More support is needed by medical and #counseling professionals, as well as pastoral care and family involvement.

Whether sensing someone is in the danger zone or not, include #teens in your prayers.

The Rev. Mark Koonz is pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran Church in Walla Walla. Email him at EmmanuelOffice@wwelc.org or call him at 509-525-6872.


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