Guest column/Make sure we’re paying attention to our children
Are you concerned about the youth in our small corner of the world? We see our youth become more adultlike, so tall, so smart, so mature. But we tend to forget that on the inside they are not so sure of themselves because they don’t have experience enough, knowledge enough, to cope with adult issues. They are looking to the adults in their lives for guidance, for wisdom, for answers to their questions, to understand the whys they can’t quite grasp.
Sometimes youth are handed adult responsibilities but nobody will listen to what they say because, after all, they are still children. They are between a rock and a hard place. They become overwhelmed, feel inadequate to cope, uncertain about the world they find around them.
Think about the years of your youth. How did you cope? What life skills did you have in your life skills toolbox? Where did those tools come from? Sometimes we just don’t know how our children interpret us, our actions, our words, perhaps for many years. Parents do not have a crystal ball. They don’t have all of the answers. But they must have parenting skills enough to provide for needs, both physical and mental.
When society became more transient, young families moved further distances away from where they grew up, something was lost: Connections to family, extended family, people a youngster could go to when parents were unavailable or they felt they could trust enough to talk about how they really feel, like grandparents, aunts and uncles, friends of the family who understood them. Does everyone find such connections in a new place?
What contributes to a young person to consider suicide? The very idea hurts my heart. There are so many reasons to live.
Reportedly, rates of suicide among adolescents and young adults began to rise about year 2000. By 2019 suicide became the second leading cause of death among the ages of 15 to 19.
At the same time, they were struggling with self-harm and depression. Why? The National Institutes of Health advises that the loss of many young lives also affects many others psychologically and socially, as well as socioeconomically. Everyone suffers at the loss of a person’s life to suicide. What were they struggling with that was so drastic that their only way out was premature death?
The risk factors list is broken down into categories by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: Individual, relationship, community and society. We all are stakeholders, as you can see from this. What can each of us do to protect our youth, to give them reasons not to give up?
• Give and teach them coping and problem-solving skills. Good or bad, we teach our children what we believe every single day of our lives by our actions, often more often than our words.
• Instill cultural and religious beliefs that discourage rather than honor suicide.
• Assure connections to family, friends and community support. Youth groups like Boy Scouts and Campfire, the Granges and churches always brought people together to find common ground and be connected. Everyone needs to be rooted somewhere, don’t they?
• Supportive relationships with care providers. These are the adults who care what happens to them, who love them and want to be there for them when needed.
• Provide physical and mental health care when there is a need. Do we see what we want to see or do we see what our children need?
• Assure limited access to lethal means among people at risk.
The National Suicide Prevention Hotline can connect you with a skilled, trained counselor in your area. It is free and confidential, and is reached at (800) 273-8255. Together with people who love and care about you, you can get through anything. You matter.
For information about the agency’s treatment and education programs, contact the Family Recovery Center at 1010 N. Sixth St., Steubenville; by phone at (740) 283-4946; by e-mail at email@example.com; or by visiting the website at www.familyrecovery.org. Family Recovery Center is funded in part by Jefferson County Prevention and Recovery Board.
(Brownfield is a publicist at the Family Recovery Center.)