Questions and Answers

My little community has suffered much in the past year. We lost a beloved high school teacher and coach. His loss was devastating. He died surrounded by friends and family, filled with the Holy Spirit. Yes, we grieve for him. However, we have lost four high school students in just a short 4 months. These students took their own life. I didn’t know them or even their families. Like many suicides, we may never truly know why this seemed like the only option for them.
It sure would be nice to know right? If we knew, then we could feel that much coveted sense of relief. “Whew” we don’t have that in our house! The problem with these teen suicides is that I don’t believe that there is just one factor to consider.
I live in a beautiful community. It is filled with highly educated, driven, very creative people. Many are generous with their time and resources. Like most, we want what is best for our kids. We want them to go to great colleges, we want them to take advantage of the Hope Scholarship, we want them to perform up to their athletic potential. We want them to have every opportunity this great world has to offer. Our schools consistently score in the top in the country. Our high school has won many state championships. We have one of the best drama departments in the area.
Yes, our school is beautiful. However, there are cracks. This type of success doesn’t come without cost. Our middle schoolers begin to hear from teachers in 6th grade ” you need to do well to go to UGA or Ga Tech”. They literally begin to feel that pressure while trying to navigate the first steps of adolescence. They also begin to tryout for feeder programs, knowing that is almost a prerequisite for making the high school team. To improve their child’s success, parents pay private coaches to hone athletic skills. They pay private tutors to improve their academic performance and success during the summer.

Our kids are placed in every imaginable competitive arena. We,as parents are doing this. Our teachers are doing it. Our coaches are doing it. Then we all wonder why these kids are taking their own lives. Some kids just aren’t made for this. I won’t even start on what I think it is doing to the family unit….Add to all this how social media has infiltrated our kids’ culture. Look on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and all you see are smiling happy people. Have you ever noticed that nobody ever posts a picture of themselves having a bad hair day, or a grumpy day, or anything of than having the best day of my life with my BFF? Kids see that everybody else is happy and having a great time. They see that they weren’t invited. They feel left out and alone.

I don’t know what to do, and certainly don’t have any answers to these problems. I don’t even know what questions to ask. I just know that it is not ok to me that kids in my world are unhappy. I am grateful to God that He has connected me with some creative and generous friends and we are going to try to help. We don’t know what to do, but we won’t rest until the Lord tells us to.

About Debbie

I have been married for 20 years to a Yankee, have two great kids, a fun and funny Southern family, and a whole bunch of friends. I try to enjoy the journey!
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10 Responses to Questions and Answers

  1. Amanda Quintana says:

    This is wonderfully written Debbie. I think you are right on target!

  2. Lisa says:

    Well put Debbie!!

  3. Katybeth says:

    We opted out of traditional education. Very little homework, no AP classes. Cole is a senior this upcoming year and he has chose not to take SAT or ACT classes–he has done ok on both tests. He may go to college or he may work at some ideas for starting his own business, he may take a gap year. We will see what happens–his senior year is as important as what comes after it. I don’t think kids are committing suicide because of school, or parents or extra activities..but I do think being a teenager takes a huge amount of energy and is hard and needs more compassion and less pressure. And finally Our schools seniors each do a mega projects and last year one of them researched suicide and I was amazed at the kids under 7 who kill themselves (how can this even be) one of the reasons cited it that kids this age think their life should be a constant stream of happiness, rainbows and white horses…along with Sponge Bob, and Hanna (am I dating myself) They are finding it is crucial to a child’s early develop to learn to be without entertainment from the outside and be connected to genuine real life experiences. Children without this connection suffer when the think their life doesn’t measure up to the media version of what life looks like. “Whats wrong with me?” Little children have a very hard time discerning between reality and fiction. The research in this area is fascinating and may make a diference….I hope so because you’re right there is something very wrong when the only option a young person can see for themselves is opting to end their life.

    • Debbie says:

      KB, parenting is so hard. I feel like I’m always learning…thanks for weighing in and sharing your thoughts.

  4. Mathilda says:

    Thank you for keeping this issue top priority. This is never a comfortable topic. Being the parent of a child who has attempted suicide, I can only speak to what we know in our house. I think we spin our wheels trying to figure out why and sometimes the answer is so complicated and transitional we’ll never know. We need to take each day as it comes and realize that the external environment is only one part of the puzzle. Even children who have the most loving families and most low key lifestyles can be suicidal. We can’t ignore the chemical factors that are physically occurring and need to check in often with the professionals. I’m so grateful that we didn’t chalk everything up to being a “moody teenager” or our devastation would have been much greater. As a society, we need to start thinking of mental illness in the same regard as any other illness such as cancer or diabetes. Just like these diseases, mental illness does not discriminate. It is as disappointing and debilitating for the person who suffers from it as it is for those who surround him/her. Recognition and treatment is a forever evolving team effort. Our children deserve for us, as parents, to be as educated as we can be in keeping their lives balanced and healthy, both physically and mentally.

  5. Nancy says:

    I completely agree. Children aren’t allowed to be kids anymore. The pressure is insane. The parents behind the athletics ruin it for the kids. I remember hours spent outside playing with friends. Now it seems like every minute needs to be supervised and organized. They are told that a 4.0 isn’t good enough.

    I am confident that these kids will find their way even without AP classes and 4.2 GPA’s. The key is balance. I think we have all lost perspective in this age of always having to have the newest and best of everything. What we really need is time with our family and friends.