Straight Talk Advice

Panel shares indelible effects of suicide

Sep 22, 2015

Tripled suicide rate begs healthier childrearing, kinder society

Dear Readers: Last week we shared warning signs, risk factors and preventatives of suicide. I hope today’s true stories of this “silent” epidemic — whose rate has tripled since 1965 — inspire needed change. —Lauren

Karlee 18, Bentleyville, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

A 13-year-old from camp followed through with a suicide pact she’d made with her boyfriend. This is how I know nobody is untouched: I’d seen this girl but never had a conversation with her. Yet I cried constantly for two weeks. I cried because I didn't talk to her. Because I hadn't been there to stop her. I cried for her 10-year-old sister who found her hanging on their back porch. Since then, others have self-destructed and all I can do is cry. While they aren't in pain anymore, the family, friends, classmates, bullies, teachers, people they've never talked to, are. It's not something we will or should get over.

Gregg 24, Houston, Texas Ask me a question

My grade-school friend had been such a happy, creative person his suicide was crushing. I learned he was depressed and had also come off a Molly binge, which exacerbates depression. Another younger friend leapt to his death without any signs, baffling everyone. Both were 16, leaders among their peers.

Brie 23, London, England Ask me a question

When the call came that a childhood friend committed suicide, I was 16, in statistics class. I don’t even remember driving home. I kept wishing I hadn’t moved away, that I could’ve done something. The warning signs were either missed or discounted. He was depressed, heavily abusing drugs and had just started antidepressants, another suicide risk factor. After much grieving, I committed to monitoring my own happiness and paying closer attention to behavioral changes in friends who might be concealing their depression. If you notice something, assure friends that you are there for them and tell a parent or teacher who will get them help. An ex-boyfriend threatened suicide when I wouldn’t see him and I immediately called 911. Threats must be taken seriously.

Meghan 19, College Station, Pennsylvania Ask me a question

A friend going through a three-year suicide anniversary called. This strong male crying on the phone really affected me. In comforting survivors, just listen and accept their sadness. Don’t shy from the word “suicide”. Ask about positive memories. Don’t worry about reopening the wound; that’s part of healing. Also, don't rush the length of mourning.

Elle 19, Boca Raton, Florida Ask me a question

The first time I saw my dad break down and cry was upon receiving news of a relative’s suicide. To anyone feeling hopeless and in pain, you do matter and your family and friends will be devastated. You are vastly precious, irreplaceable in someone's life, and loved immeasurably by God. Preventing suicide starts with loving our neighbors, flaws and all. Human memory fixates on negative interactions and amplifies them under duress. Validate others for the precious beings they are and don’t be a contributor to their insecurities.

Nicole 25, San Luis Obispo, California Ask me a question

Primary causes of youth suicide: sexual-orientation issues, bullying, emotional or physical trauma, and not feeling seen or understood. The needed preventative: treating others with respect and love.

Samantha 23, Toledo, Ohio Ask me a question

My brother died in 2004 in a car accident. The following year, 11 local families lost children. My parents reached out and formed The Valley Walkers, a grief support group. One death was an attractive senior in a top-tier Catholic school who excelled in sports and academics. After his girlfriend broke up with him, he drove into a field and shot himself. His parents admitted additional complications but they never dreamed he’d take his life. People hide their feelings in a judgmental world. We control few things on this earth, but how we treat others is one. Being a person of kindness and compassion could save someone's life. To anyone grieving, the shared experience of a grief support group makes it easier to talk about feelings.

Shel 18, Pleasanton, California Ask me a question

Everyone is touched by suicide because society still shames depression and mental illness. Many peers confide in me their mental illness, but don’t share openly. Communities must teach that depression is a disease, nothing shameful, the cure being to ask for help.

Dear Readers: Me again. Many panelists aptly note that compassionate human interactions are what make life worth living — literally. In fact, most depression and mental illness is preventable at the source by giving babies and children continual warmth and kindness in securely-attached low-stress childhoods (thus allowing proper formation of the brain’s dopaminergic system which regulates self-soothing), along with proper nutrition, sleep, nature, free play, and protection from screen media which stupefies and sells addiction to junk food, outer beauty, premature sexuality, gaming and pornography. Sadly, a healthy protected childhood is increasingly considered quaint, rather than fundamental to mental health.

Therapy also helps tremendously — especially early therapy. In a study of early-intervention for at-risk youth, 90 percent of subjects took less than 10 therapy sessions to improve self-esteem and cease thoughts of self-harm. (Ironically, youth are the toughest group for therapists to schedule because of their pressure-cooker lives.) These times they need a-changin’.

Editor's Note: Please click HERE to be taken to last week's column to read or re-read the warning signs, risk factors and preventatives for suicide.

Not all suicides are preventable.... but the more we are educated, the more we can help others feel valued and welcome on this planet and the more we can "normalize" mental health care and learn that it's okay to ask and seek help for mental issues.

I also hope it influences soon-to-be parents, current parents, and society to change their priorities and support the vital importance of childhood. The human is the most sensitive of all mammalian creatures and truly needs a long, warm, low-stress infancy and childhood securely-attached to warm loving parent figures and protected from stupefying influences in order to emerge into adolescence and adulthood intact as a strong healthy individual able to immerse into and handle today’s multiple stressors. There’s no Band-Aid or quick “fix” that replaces this. I can state from my own experience, that raising children like this is also a joy and easy compared to the mainstream way. —Lauren


Straight Talk is a nonprofit that tackles youth’s toughest issues with youth’s wisest advice.

Our advice is free-of-charge. If today's column is useful to you, please consider a donation by clicking here!

  1. By C.J., age 16, from Vacaville, CA on 09/22/2015

    Anyone contemplating suicide needs to know that suicide and even attempted suicide causes tremendous guilt for those left behind who think that they could and should have done something to prevent it and is therefore very unfair to others.  It has been called “the ultimate act of selfishness” for good reason.

    My sister and I have a cousin who shares our room when her family comes to visit ours.  We had always gotten along well and enjoyed her visits.  However, one time recently she acted very depressed but shrugged it off when we asked what was wrong.  In addition, we couldn’t help but notice cut marks on her body when she undressed.  We didn’t ask about them.  She’d never been shy about undressing in front of us when she stayed in our room, and vice versa.  However, this time she was overly casual about nudity and seemed to go out of her way to be naked in front of us.  We didn’t give it that much thought at the time since as I said we’d never been shy about nudity with each other.  However, in retrospect I have the feeling that she wanted to make sure we saw the cut marks and maybe say something.

    Shortly after this, she attempted suicide. Although she did not succeed, my sister and I still felt (and still feel) tremendously guilty after knowing that she was depressed and also seeing the cut marks and keeping silent.  If she had succeeded I think we would have felt guilty for the rest of our lives. 


    Reply to this comment

    1. By Andi, age 17, from Santa Ana, CA on 09/24/2015

      I totally agree.  My little sister who is only 12 attempted suicide, and I felt totally guilty and felt that I should have known and done something.  Our single parent mom who is also a busy career woman has little time for us, so as her big sister who she looks up to I do my best to give her the attention that is missing from our mom.  She’s even said that I’m more of a “mom” to her than our mom. We share a room and she’s totally comfortable with me seeing her nude (and even on the toilet when we share the bathroom in the morning) but won’t even let our mom see her in her underwear.  She confides in me about all of her problems, so it was a total shock when she did this and I had no idea.  Her attempt was by mixing some of our mom’s medication with booze and all that happened was that she got very sick and barfed it all up, but even so I was devastated that she would do such a thing.  It turned out that she did it because she was being teased about being fat.  She had confided in me about this and cried on my shoulder and I couldn’t help but seeing her gaining weight when she was nude.  However, it didn’t occur to me that something like this was so serious to her that she would try to kill herself.  I therefore felt extremely guilty for not realizing how serious things were with her and insisting that our mom get help for her.  To make matters worse, our mom put all the blame on me and said that as her big sister she needs to rely on me since she is working hard to support us and cannot always be around and as her sister who shares a room with her and who she confides in, I “should” have known.  Maybe I should have, but I still think it’s unfair to put the blame on me.  However, if the unthinkable actually had happened, I don’t think I ever could have forgiven myself.


      Reply to this comment

      1. By T.M., age 16, from Toledo, Ohio on 09/26/2015

        I think your mom is being incredibly unfair to you! First, she abandons her parental responsibilities and puts them on you when you’re only 17 and then blames you when your sister does this.  Did it occur to your mom that her neglect may have been a major contributing factor?  Probably not, since she’s putting all the blame on you.  Our mom is also a single parent who works full time in a demanding job.  However, she still makes time for us.  As with you and your sister, my sister and I are close and share a room and are much more comfortable with nudity with each other than with her.  In fact while we see each other nude every day, she very rarely sees as this way.  Therefore, we would see signs of concern on each others bodies long before she would.  If I saw anything to be concerned about I would tell our mom, and I would hope that my sister would do the same if it was me. 

        My sister has never attempted suicide, but I did have a friend who attempted it.  Even though she wasn’t even a close friend, I still felt guilty that maybe I should have somehow seen the signs and told someone, so I can imagine how a sister or other close family member would feel.  However, I think it is really unfair to blame anyone else for this, and especially in your case.


        Reply to this comment

Comment Form

Straight Talk Advice readers are known for their frank and constructive posts that lead to insightful conversations that help many people! Please keep these guidelines in mind when posting:

  • Be constructive: Needlessly cruel or obscene comments will probably be removed. Be conscious of this so your point can be heard.
  • Be relevant: Spam or senseless character attacks irrelevant to the discussion will also probably be removed.

Happy posting!