Updated: Sep 16, 2021
By Theresa Anthony, author of Hope Springs from a Mother's Broken Heart
Something is very wrong.
I happen to belong to a Facebook group named “Suicide Group Support for Parents,” a private group with more than 3,000 members. I hate that I am a member of this particular group. I wish with all my heart that I never had to know the pain of losing someone so dear to me in this awful way.
In the past few months, I have become increasingly alarmed by the clip that people are now joining this group. Every single day, without fail, the page administrator sends out a notice that so and so has joined our group. Sadly, there are multiple parents joining daily, so these notices regularly pepper my Facebook feed. This speaks to the disturbing uptick in the rate of suicides, and points to the utter despair that so many young people seem to be experiencing.
My son was 25 when he took his life. I thought that was young, but in recent months the ages of the kids the parents have lost has gotten younger and younger. There have been several children lost to suicide lately, even as young as age seven. What is happening? How can this even be?
September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. How sad that we even need to designate a month to this cause, but there you have it. Suicide has become a serious blight on our culture, only exacerbated by the peripheral emotional damage caused by the pandemic. Already, suicide was the second leading cause of preventable death among young people aged 10-24. Judging by the rate that parents are joining this Facebook group, my guess is that this already alarming statistic might be obliterated very soon.
When you read the parents’ anguished posts on this page, you notice some common themes. Nearly every single parent, myself included, was completely taken by surprise by their child’s suicide. Yes, parents might have been aware of a mental health struggle, a substance use problem, relationship issues, or even bullying in the youngest cohort. But never in our wildest dreams would most of us have ever believed our son or daughter would end their life.
Other commonalities we share are the lingering questions and the second guessing—the whys, coulda shoulda, wouldas, and what-ifs—along with feelings of guilt, anger, and incredible sorrow. Unimaginable sorrow, really. Most of us parents are left with PTSD and other mental health struggles after facing such a horrific ending to our child’s life.
Our young people are in obvious distress, to the point where a growing number have lost all sense of hope. We've all hit some harsh lows over these past couple of years, and the young are certainly not immune to the daily challenges this pandemic has wrought. But when so many of our young people see no option other than suicide, we are indeed a nation in crisis.
Check in with your kids. Let them know on a regular basis that you are there for them. Offer your love and guidance, no matter what their struggle happens to be. When someone is at a low point, that small gesture is like throwing him or her a life preserver. With so many teens and young adults suffering in silence, you just never know when a well-timed phone call or text message might turn out to be a genuine lifesaver.
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Hope Springs from a Mother's Broken Heart: 11 Mothers Share How They Survived the Loss of a Child (order here)
My 13th Station: A Mother Shares Her Son's Tragic Battle with Depression, Alcoholism, and Demons (order here)