From Kathryn’s desk…This is a story of tragedy that instead offers us hope for a different future reality. An 8th grade budding athlete who attended middle school in the small all-American town of Springfield, Oregon was a star in many sports. He was also observed to be intelligent, attractive and well liked among his peers. Another 8th grader, Maya, who boards a horse named Two Socks and rides the bus to the barn after school, sat with her friend, the budding athlete, one day recently. He said goodbye as usual when reaching his stop.
But unlike other days, it was a last goodbye. This young man full of life and promise shot himself, committing suicide, just 3 hours later.
We need to ask ourselves why a young person with seemingly everything to live for would commit such a violent and final act upon his or her own life?
Teenage suicide is the third cause of death among teenagers in this country causing an excruciating 4,000 deaths a year in ages 15-25 (1). For every death there are 11 other teenagers who have made an attempt. 150 thousand young people between the ages of 15 and 24 are treated in emergency rooms every year for self-inflicted injuries. (1)
I asked Maya’s older sister about this middle school student, poised to be a star athlete as an incoming high school freshman, just a few months down the road he so tragically cut short. I was hoping to get a clearer perspective of why no one suspected, intervened, or had any inkling of this young man’s obvious mental and emotional pain. This is what the 16 year old cheerleader, Hailey, told me:
“He was a popular kid, not bullied, and stood up for everything that was right. He played soccer, basketball, football, and baseball. He could make a basket from half court, was definitely going to make varsity his freshman year and probably be drafted later on down the road. He was loved by his 8th grade peers, idolized by the 6th graders and inspiring to his teachers. Everyone in our community is super torn up by this.”
Whatever storm engulfed his young life and drowned out his ability to cope is, unfortunately, yet unknown.
The good news is that, according to experts (2), most teenagers welcome help either from parents or professionals to ease the pain of their feelings. But first someone has to be aware of those feelings. Talk to your teenagers on a regular basis, even if they seem annoyed by your desire to engage them in conversation. Nothing trumps personal interaction that clearly shows interest, concern and support for whatever a teen is feeling or needs to express to another person who is willing to listen. Be that captive audience for your teenager!
Maya’s soccer team has dedicated their remaining games to her newly deceased friend, winning their next match in his honor. It can’t bring him back, but playing for his namesake helps ease the very real pain of a good friend now gone to them forever.
Another of Maya’s older sister’s, Freshman class vice president, Taryn, wrote this short poem uploaded to FB during the candlelight vigil in this young man’s memory:
Light for life…
A sunny day and a starry night.
I hope you are up there shining with the stars
and I hope you looked down tonight,
…and saw how loved you are!
(2) Suicide prevention, Country reports and charges, United States of America, World Health Organization. Fetched from web page 15 March 2010.
Story by Kathryn Mattingly.