I got the call late last night.
“She slit her wrists and is being admitted for 72 hours of observation,” a family member sobbed on the other end of the phone, begging me to pray. The only intelligible word before that sentence amongst the tortured sobs was, “pray.”
So I did.
‘These are tragedies reserved only for emotional Jesse Spano episodes of Saved By The Bell or Lifetime original movies,’ I thought.
I am still in shock. My hands are still shaking.
Parents, this is not a cry for help, but a call to action.
The person who had survived her attempt to end her life was not even a teenager yet. Her life thus far had not been one from story books, but family had fought with the court system to attempt to intervene. This is where it has landed.
Mamas, none of us are immune.
Last year, our then six-year-old son began making comments about not wanting to live anymore. He has behavior needs and anxiety, but he has grown up in a very loving and supportive home with both parents present and in a happy marriage.
Please hear me when I say that things are not as they were when we were growing up what seems like not long ago. In the 90s, bullying might have gotten you shoved in a locker or teased, but today’s view of the subject is a much more disturbing and aggressive state of affairs.
With the increase of instant gratification through the internet, social media likes and unfollows, and the unimaginable at our children’s fingertips with a swipe or a tap of their smart phones or tablets, we cannot completely control their exposure–no matter the parental locks we employ.
In their most formative years, where the approval of their peers has it’s greatest impact, our kids are growing up with Instagram filters and cyberbullying when our only mental comparison would’ve been rude notebook paper drawings on a piece of paper folded like a triangular football and flicked at the back of our heads.
Whether your child has had the blessing of a supportive and loving upbringing or has experienced their share of trauma, they are not unreachable.
We can research. We can prepare ourselves and our children. We can pray. But we cannot fully understand their temptations and pressures and that is something worth noting.
Parents, we are our children’s inner voices from their very youngest memories. We can choose to offer the sounds of encouragement and strength, of character and confirmation of who and Whose they are–or we can begin to form for them what the world will no doubt later confirm. “Don’t be a baby.” “Man up!” “Suck it up.” “You shouldn’t eat seconds or you’ll get fat.” “You’ll never make state if you aren’t…” Fill in the blanks.
We’ve all heard it because we’ve either said it or heard it said to us during our own childhood. Whose voice do you hear echoing in your head when you are looking in the mirror and feeling like too much or not enough?
We may not be able to understand our children’s exact situation any more than we could ever fully control it, but we can certainly do what is within our power. That starts with us, in our homes and neighborhoods, in our schools and churches, and in our playgrounds and play groups.
Parents, may we unite to lift, encourage, and empower each other. May we choose kindness and understand that everyone is just doing the best we can; praying our children are safe.
We are our child’s advocate–their first line of defense, but we can’t do it alone. It takes a village.
No one is immune so please don’t assume you know. Hurting kids don’t all look like they live below the poverty line; they might be athletes, academics, musicians, or loners. There is no ‘type’. Check on each other, friends, because today’s children’s cries for help don’t sound like ours did twenty years ago.
Mental health is real. If you or someone you know is struggling, call the National Suicide Prevention hotline at 1-800-273-8254.