During the week of September 9th, many Americans commemorated the 39th National Suicide Prevention Week, a tradition set forth by the American Association of Suicidology. In memory of their friends or family who tragically succumbed to untangled dilemmas, observers around the country lit candles and organized parades, echoing the message of embracing life.
Popularized by movies, TV shows, and even young adult fictions, teenage suicide has oftentimes appeared to be a prevalent plague demanding immediate containment. For three decades, statistics have rendered it the second leading cause of death among college students and the third among younger adolescents. Yet on so many occasions would bystanders fail to pick up any signs of irregularity—even amongst their friends—until time ran out. Often downplayed by the comforts and joy that most human beings choose to see in their surroundings, precursors to suicide seem subtle, secretive, but nonetheless speaking.
Many MCPS students have personal experiences in coping, or witnessing the encounters of a peer, with overwhelming depression that preempts suicide. Between 2007~2009, twenty three adolescents lost their lives to the invisible goliath.
Kay, a former student of Lakelands Park, recounted her struggles with clinical depression in middle school. Although the psychological impacts could be remedied by drugs, the agony that she had to endure will remain unforgotten.
“It wasn’t anything that I did or others did to me. But I just felt that something was going very wrong. Sometimes I wouldn’t want to get up from a couch after sitting there for four hours. I didn’t know how to do anything except to sleep.”
While some cases of teenage depression are just manifestations of internal hormone malfunctions, the majority of instances are triggered by unamiable interactions with peers and the absence of a sense of belonging or purpose. Ally, a student at Gaithersburg Middle School, remembers her friend suddenly sinking into despair.
“At first I just assumed that she didn’t want to talk because of private reasons. I mean, she always got perfect grades and wasn’t bullied, definitely didn’t do drugs, I couldn’t think of anything except she wanted to be left alone.
“For a long time she just mopped around. Finally I decided that this wasn’t a small deal and I sent her a few messages. I was scared by the tone that she spoke in, and I didn’t need any more convincing to know she must get help. It turned out that she was going through a really tough time with her step dad.”
Regardless of the reasons behind suicidal tendencies, coupled with negligence, the outcome could be catastrophic and irreparable. Rita Lori, a specialist for teenage depression and suicide at the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, has previously mentored many youths on their path to recovery from suicide attempts.
“I get calls every hour, and although my heart aches every time when I pick up the phone and hear a tearful teenager, I’m also very grateful that they reached out. We have lost too many lives to negligence.”
Although Montgomery County has one of the lowest student suicide rates around the nation (7.0/100,000 compared to 11/100,000), many teens still find it an imperative to educate their peers about suicide prevention. Laura, a student at Julius West Middle School, started a Facebook group to have her friends wear gold on September 10th to raise awareness for suicide prevention.
High school senior Lily of Bethesda has a ton to say when it comes to this subject. Having grown up in a family of mental instability, Lily has twice witnessed her father on the verge of taking his life with a handgun. The memory turned her “icy cold,” but upon revisiting, she saw it as the beginning to her own spiritual empowerment.
“The single most important lesson I have learned is to love: love the people in my life, love my work, love my hobbies.”
“Sometimes it’s hard to understand “why me”. How did my world end up being so messed up? There are a lot of questions but not a lot of answers. But really you only need one answer: because you can handle it. You CAN make it through this. You CAN make it better. It’s up to you to put the smile on your own face. Because one day you will be the strongest person you know and you can say ‘I made it. I did this on my own and I am proud.’”
There are many available resources for MCPS students to seek assistance for themselves or for their peers, including the Montgomery County Crisis Center and the Montgomery County Hotline. Suicide Risk Reporting forms can be found in all counseling offices.
For more information on where to get help, visit: http://www.montgomeryschoolsmd.org/uploadedFiles/schools/newportmillms/departments/counseling/topics/MontgomeryCountyResources.pdf
Image courtesy of the Gazette