And we’ve lost another one: What does it mean to help unstable teenagers?

I heard of another teenager taking his life today. Thankfully this was not associated with a mass killing.

There has been a lot of talk about mental health since the tragic killings at Sandy Hook elementary, and yet I am unsure as to how or if there will be any real policy changes at all. Insurance rarely wants to cover mental health services. Just trying to get them to cover therapy I needed after a traumatic situation was a real bitch. They first authorized seven visits and then subsequently, told me it was a mistake and would not be authorized. Talk about a real bitch. My own co-pay for a therapist is 50 dollars per one session…not a cheap price to pay in today’s day and age.

When I heard about this young man who had killed himself just before Christmas, I couldn’t help but remember my own feelings of helplessness as a teenager. I was suffering through physical illness, rape, abuse, etc, and total loss of self-esteem. I ran on autopilot and rarely felt many emotions. How could I? At that point I was rather closed off. It took years to really get down to the issues and sometimes when I sit and think about things, I feel a lack of answers and  some sadness even after all this time, possibly because I have a young daughter and I worry about these things happening to her.

I have no idea what was running through this young man’s head nor do I know what his issues were. We can all guess and scrutinize like the media and public are doing in the case of Adam Lanza, but we will probably never have the answers.

What does it mean to help these unstable and distraught teenagers in a day and age in which no one speaks to one another,unless it’s through an Internet dialogue?  How can teachers or family/friends spot these troubled individuals and then go about helping them? Who is supposed to step in regarding these situations, besides the obvious people like family? 

I was intelligent and acutely aware that I was not myself anymore, and so I reached out to my family to ask for help. Not every teenager is going to be that self-aware or mentally able to say, “Hey, I’m struggling.” I had many friends go by the way side–most of these friends weren’t very good to begin with–and the real truth was I did not share most of what was happening with my family. I just kept these things inside and asked for help when I felt I couldn’t handle it anymore.

People guess about Nancy Lanza’s parenting skills…and I’m sure people will wonder how the parents handled this other young boy’s troubles. As a young parent myself, I am wondering what was going on in these people’s minds, yet I cannot really judge (even if I have my own strong opinions about owning guns, etc) because I don’t have all the information. While there are many parents who turn a blind eye to a child’s problems because they simply cannot handle them, there are just as many who do what they feel is best to help their child. Sometimes, it’s not enough.

Is it the responsibility of the school system to psychologically evaluate all kids? Where do we put these  types of things in place? How do we get better health care coverage as a nation? Who is supposed to bring these issues to light when the truth of the matter is, mental illness is an eyesore and aberration to most people. No one wants to step up and say,”Hey, I’m a schizophrenic!” because it isn’t heroic to admit that. It’s heroic to admit you’ve conquered cancer (truly) and heroic to admit you are a rape survivor, (truly) yet no one usually finds it heroic for some to step up and admit that his or her brain isn’t functioning right. Most teenagers, incredibly self-conscious as a breed, are certainly less apt to fight for their mental health needs.

I don’t have any answers tonight, but I do wish I could provide something, some ideas for change. The only thing I can offer is the mere suggestion that our culture hearkens back to an old theory and way of life: ‘It takes a village to raise a child.”

We have lost our villages and vital connections. Most of us parent in a vacuum, minus the competitive showcasing of social media. We need to step back to our roots. Find a little more time to help others outside of ourselves.

It’s not much to offer, but it’s all I have. I know that suicide has been around since the dawn of time, but I find our adolescent community is living underneath mountains of stress and facade. There are very few sources of vital connections and socialization for these kids; instead, they deal with mixed media messages and pressures beyond what I had as a young girl.

Maybe it is time we look to other countries and sources for inspiration. Maybe we should stop assuming that we’re this “Number one country with the right way to do things.” Drop our ethnocentrism. Maybe that won’t help at all…but let’s not watch more young die.



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