My daughter left for school in a simple black dress today. The color wasn’t unusual, but the fact she chose to wear a dress kind of threw me. In middle school I’m not seeing a lot of dresses these days. The thought didn’t cross my mind again and off we went for drop off.
Inching up through the caravan of cars I saw other girls in dresses, or skirts. Black. There were no school concerts going on or special assemblies. Now I was curious. Something was going on that hadn’t been formally announced, but there were too many incidents of black moving around the school campus to feel normal.
I dropped off my daughter, told her I loved her and we did our normal goodbye routine. As I watched my 11 year old sail off to the front doors of the school building it struck me. My daughter was quietly paying respect. Tears welled in my eyes. Earlier this week a young lady who attended the same school, a child really, took her life. We didn’t know this girl, but it didn’t matter. The air was thick with grief.
The day after the news was shared with families, some kids showed up to school wearing green. I saw a group gathered before school who were spray painting clothes on the cement side walk. I asked my daughter what they were doing, but she didn’t know. After school I was told the kids were wearing green because it was the deceased girl’s favorite color. Some took to spraying their hair green. My daughter told me that a teacher made them go wash it out right away. I asked her why, and she said the teacher said this is a time for respect not flamboyance.
The news of the suicide rushed quickly through lines of communication. In fact, before we got a letter from the school principal, a co-worker of mine was texted by her daughter that this had happened. She went to an entirely different school. It was all over Twitter I heard. News travels so fast today.
I was impressed that the letter we received gave no details- only that a student had died- and asked for our thoughts and prayers to be with the family. Public school using the word, prayer. Amen to that. That evening my husband and I chose to have a talk with our 11 year old about what happened. Words such as suicide, killed and dead were part of the vocabulary- they all came from our child’s mouth. I couldn’t believe I was having this conversation with our daughter-our child. Innocence had left us without saying goodbye. I don’t really know what someone so young comprehends, but she understood this was serious.
I don’t have details surrounding the situation. My morbid curiosity did overcome me and I checked to see what the internet had to say. I’m impressed with our community that I couldn’t really find out much. This story was not all over the news as you often see in other parts of the country. I did learn that there was once an older sister. She was killed in an automobile accident in 2008. The biological mother had also passed away. She would now have been in her fifties. There are two siblings in high school and parents. I’m at a loss of words to say for the emptiness they must feel- for their grief.
Maybe there were circumstances that would make more sense out of why this child decided her life had to end. From outside appearances that would seem impossible. She was a beautiful girl involved in school activities. Somehow she convinced herself that whatever she was going through was so horrific it wasn’t worth living. I can relate to that feeling of desperation. I’m grateful for those over the years who walked me through.
I want to run to my child right now and hold her tight. I don’t want to send her off into a world like this. I want her to assure me with every breath she takes she knows she is loved and important and cared for so deeply- no matter what others may try to get her to believe. I had to say to my child, who hasn’t reached a maturity level to understand struggles like this, that she must promise me to talk with me if she ever questions her value in our world, her value to her parents and others in her life, her value to God. She must be asking why?
Today my daughter wore black to school. She knows something isn’t right with this, but she knows it’s important to show her respect. She figured that out on her own.
Our prayers go out to the family, friends, teachers and community leaders who know this family. Their pain must be indescribable. If it makes any difference to a single person out there- you matter. We live in a difficult world- a difficult time, but God has a purpose and plan for you. Seek Him. In your darkest periods cry out to Him and talk. Talk with someone about how you feel. Let them have the opportunity to be the purpose God might have for them. Get involved if you know someone is struggling. Ask questions-even if everything seems alright. Our children shouldn’t have to wear black. No one should for this purpose.
One in five teenagers in the U.S. seriously considers suicide annually, according to data collected by the CDC. In 2003, 8 percent of adolescents attempted suicide, representing approximately 1 million teenagers, of whom nearly 300,000 receive medical attention for their attempt; and approximately 1,700 teenagers died by suicide each year. Currently, the most effective suicide prevention programs equip mental health professionals and other community educators and leaders with sufficient resources to recognize who is at risk and who has access to mental health care.
Teen suicide is a growing health concern. It is the third-leading cause of death for young people ages 15 to 24, surpassed only by homicide and accidents, according to the U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention.
According to experts suicidal distress can be caused by psychological, environmental and social factors. Mental illness is the leading risk factor for suicide. Suicide risk-factors vary with age, gender, ethnic group, family dynamics and stressful life events. According to a 2004 report distributed by the National Institute of Mental Health, research shows that risk factors for suicide include depression and other mental disorders, and substance-abuse disorders (often in combination with other mental disorders). More than 90 percent of people who die by suicide have these risk factors. The risk for suicide frequently occurs in combination with external circumstances that seem to overwhelm at-risk teens who are unable to cope with the challenges of adolescence because of predisposing vulnerabilities such as mental disorders. Examples of stressors are disciplinary problems, interpersonal losses, family violence, sexual orientation confusion, physical and sexual abuse and being the victim of bullying.
The Cyberbullying Research Center also did a series of surveys that found these cyber bullying statistics:
- Over 80 percent of teens use a cell phone regularly, making it the most popular form of technology and a common medium for cyber bullying
- About half of young people have experienced some form of cyber bullying, and 10 to 20 percent experience it regularly
- Mean, hurtful comments and spreading rumors are the most common type of cyber bullying
- Girls are at least as likely as boys to be cyber bullies or their victims
- Boys are more likely to be threatened by cyber bullies than girls
- Cyber bullying affects all races
- Cyber bullying victims are more likely to have low self esteem and to consider suicide