What causes some teens pull the trigger or jump from a considerable height when they know they have friends they can reach out to? How does a teen’s suicide impact siblings, parents, close friends, and fellow students? How does it impact the impressionable adolescent who remotely identified with the one who took his life?
Within a span of two days, as many students from Arapahoe County committed suicide. While an Arapahoe High School junior took his life by jumping off the mall parking garage, a 13-year-old student of Powell Middle School shot himself within 24 hours. Coincidently, both the boys had posted about their intent on social media, and while friends and family were in a frenzy to locate the two and help, it was just too late.
The Arapahoe County twin suicides have come as a wake-up call for many. Whether it is schools that are woefully short of student counsellors or parents who have failed to connect with their wards, or the social media, the twin suicides within a short period have caused the closed Littleton community to sit up and take notice. In Arapahoe, this is the eighth suicide this year.
Unable to restrain her grief and reeling under the shock, one of the students vented her anger on Twitter. “Wake up. Do something different. Change the culture. Let’s get real,” she wrote. Schools are supposed to be the best time in one’s life, yet such tragedies are an indication that there is something clearly amiss.
Identifying a child’s depression
Arapahoe, with nearly 2,200 students and only six counselors and two psychologists on board, is short of trained professionals to deal with problems such as low-self-esteem, stress, depression and low morale in students. When incidents like these take place in quick succession, there is a serious impact on the fragile minds of many who knew the victim or might be harboring same thoughts.
When a child talks about committing suicide, it should not be taken as an empty threat. It could be a symptom of depression or craving for parents’ attention and trust. Consistent depressive posts or sad photos on social media accounts are not to be treated with scorn and derision. Instead of further disparaging children, it is necessary for friends and families to respond with genuine concern and show them that they care and are around if need be.
Calling for immediate vigilance regarding suicide-related posts, Stephanie Ratner, a therapist at Mental Health Center of Denver based at the Montbello school campus, says that the child could be “testing waters to see if anyone cares.” She advises parents to monitor social media accounts of their children and be more inquisitive about what is happening in their lives. As the entire Arapahoe community shows strength in times of grief, it’s time to take preventive measures and create support programs for children before they take the drastic step.
Knowing when to reach out
It is essential to reach out to a fellow mate, school counsellor or someone at home when one feels weary with life. Long periods of sadness and melancholy should never be ignored. They could portend serious mental health problems such as depression or anxiety disorders. Although social media helps connect people, it has a darker side too. Parents should encourage its limited use and educate their children about the benefits of more interesting activities such as reading, painting or dancing.