Teen Suicides Are Rising at an Alarming Rate

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As a parent of a beautiful teenage daughter (13), and a physician/surgeon who sees countless teenage patients, this article highlighting the teenage suicide epidemic is heartbreaking. While the epidemic is attributed to many factors and it’s unclear how we as the guardians of children’s health and lives can quickly reverse, decrease, and stop it, I am saddened to admit I am not entirely surprised. I find myself anxious and worried often about the reality and “world” that our only child is growing up in—where technological advances and the new norm of human interactions put humans at risk of isolation and NOT growing deeply meaningful relationships.
How many other parents notice during “playdates” that instead of actually playing or engaging in an activity, like riding a bike, playing a card game or making crafts, preteens and teens simply gather and each take out their phones, watch TikTok, YouTube, Snapchat, Instagram, amongst countless apps and media platforms?
I thought we were “good” parents by denying my daughter social media accounts when the rest of her classmates year after year nearly all have access. Then one night my dear sweet girl shared how our denials have impacted her interactions with her 8th grade classmates and friends. When she was the last to get AirPods a couple months ago, I must admit my heart ached when she tried to hide her pain but we found out her group of girlfriends started a chat group only with those who had AirPods. I am embarrassed that I forgot what it was like to be 13, but make recommendations as an adult, with simple edicts like “just switch friends”.
Every day I am conflicted by the lifestyle we have worked hard to afford her, to provide for her, yet worry about her growing up with the values we desperately want to instill in her, values that came from our own experiences of not having much and having to work so hard to get anything.
Back to the suicide epidemic. While I have accepted that I can’t control what happens the moment my daughter leaves the house and while she is at school, the interactions that are both positive and at times negative at school with other teens her age, here are things my husband and I have committed to doing to help solidify and deepen our relationship with our precious daughter during these years:
  1. Continue to prioritize sitting down at breakfast and dinner, which is not always possible for those with multiple children and many activities, but critical to ensure face-to-face time and opportunity to share, laugh, discuss, and simply “BE TOGETHER”.
  2. I plan our vacations like our lives depend on it. Whenever she doesn’t have school, I am trying to take as many vacation days as possible and plan for us to travel if we are able to do so, or simply enjoy that time together away from daily tasks and routines so we can experience being a family.
  3. Encouraging my daughter to journal, write cards and letters to others, and interact with others in a way that deepens relationships she is building.
  4. This year we noticed she is spending much much more time in her room—new expectations set that when not doing homework, she is to come out of her room into shared space with us, for “relaxing”, watching TV, down time on her iPad, after music practices, chores, etc. Allowing teens to spend endless hours in their own room without frequent “check-ins” and open discussion about what they are doing, we lack the awareness and ability to interact if there are warning signs.
  5. We recently started again to review her daily use of the internet, and turned off access to Snapchat (she had it for 4 days only) because we saw that as soon as she had access, minutes/hours using it went up as expected. She does not have Facebook, and we limit access to YouTube and other media  as well as review what she is viewing.
  6. Started playing charades, I have never seen her laugh harder, and wow is our daughter creative!
  7. Keep creating time together, doing nothing or doing whatever—bookstores, walking the dog, going to pick up donuts as a treat on weekends.
There is no easy or guaranteed way for us to raise preteens or teens to protect against the risks of the new reality, where how one looks matters, where one’s been, what one’s doing, is more important than how one contributes to others in life and daily existence.
I hope that by teaching my daughter to focus on others, world events, nature, gratitude, and learning how to modulate her emotions as I struggle with my own, and continuing to snuggle with her at night, GENEROUSLY LISTENING to her, and stealing every minute with her before she goes away to college, these are the moments that add up to be a fortress to keep her safe.

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  • Good stuff as the years fly by quickly!🥰

    Sharyl Kennedy on

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