Sunday, January 14, 2007


posted by Helen

If you’re looking for a laugh please don’t read this blog. I can promise you nothing funny, light-hearted, or entertaining today. I’m not even sure why I’m writing this, other than to try and somehow appease this intense need I have to share or, lets be honest, to vent.

One of my daughter’s closest friends committed suicide last week.

I knew him, not well, but through the years he’d been to our house more times than I can count, This is what I can tell you about him.

He was well known and loved at his school. He was the class clown with a large group of friends, not a depressed and isolated loner. He was five months from graduating from high school, five months from starting a new and wonderful journey. He was smart, normally did well in school and had already been accepted at a large university. He had some problems and had made mistakes through the years, as many kids do, but he had a kind heart. He had a mother and father and two older brothers who loved him and will miss him terribly.

Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how you look at it, I’ve suffered from depression in the past and understand more than I’d like about what this young man might have been going through. So I wish I’d known him better. I wish I’d known him well enough to reach out and help him understand that life is full of options. I wish I could have helped him understand that no one is ever truly alone and that no matter how bad things get, there is someone out there who cares.

Were there signs?
In hindsight, yes, but they were subtle. No one had a clue that this fun, smiling young man was in so much pain. After reading a little about suicide, I have the feeling that many of our teenagers are suffering in silence.

Did you know that one in thirteen high school students will attempt suicide this year? Suicide is the third leading cause of death for 15-24 years olds. And if you have a gun in your home? You’re five times more likely to have a suicide in your house. Girls think about and attempt suicide twice as often as boys. Their methods of choice are cutting themselves or overdosing. Boys, on the other hand, are four times more successful in their attempts to kill themselves, possibly because they choose more lethal methods, such as guns, hanging and jumping from heights.

I think, too, that boys are less likely to reach out for help, less likely to talk about what’s going on in their lives.
So many teenagers, boys and girls alike, feel alone in this world. I don’t care if they have long purple hair or bleached spikes, whether they’re cocky or shy, whether they’re the cheerleader, the track star, or the loner, whether their jeans are so tight you couldn’t squeeze a cell phone into their back pocket, or riding so low on their hips you know what brand of boxers they’re wearing, they’re still just kids, trying to find their way.

My parents had a hard time connecting with my long hair, rock and roll, pot-smoking generation, but have we done one worse for our own children? Have we given up? We throw cars and iPods and cell phones at them and send them off into a world so much more frightening than the one from our childhood. Have we turned our backs on this pierced and tattooed generation?

I don’t know the answers. But I’m reminded of something Robert Downey, Jr., a man who’s had more than his share of issues, said in an interview on Inside the Actor’s Studio. “A person can live through anything as long as he lives.”

Here are some links. Maybe we can make a difference.

Anne Frasier posted this in a comment, but I'm putting it up here. If you or anyone you know needs help, call the 24/7 suicide hotline. 1-800-784-2433


Betina Krahn said...

Oh, Helen. My heart goes out to you and your daughter and her friends. This will be a tough time for them and an ordeal for the boy's family and for the families of all the kids he knew.

Depression is often a silent malignancy carried in secret. It's one of the shames of our culture that we tell kids: "These are the best years of your life!" Because they're often--usually-- NOT. And kids need to know that the pain they feel is not the best that will happen to them. They need to be told that their lives will get better as they blossom and grow into themselves.

The best-- the only prevention for teen suicide is talking. Parents to kids, kids to parents. And Listening. Parents to kids. Kids to parents. And everyone else who knows and loves a kid is responsible for listening, caring, and lending help when needed, too.

For a long time, I have believed that kids can weather a lot if they KNOW that they are loved and valued by their families. But I've learned the hard way that for whatever reason, lots of kids just don't get that message.

My thoughts and prayers are with you. And with others whose battle with depression is slowly overwhelming them.


Anonymous said...

hi im a 14 yr old girl..i feel really depressed.. alone. I have thought about commiting suicide several times. Some times I think if i die if i am gone maybe people will appreciate me. maybe then they will see me. its not like im shy or not noticed its like people see but they dont care. my boyfriend broke up with me some times i hope he will see me again the way he did before. i wish he would want me regret leaving me. some times i wish my parents would see me for the good..not the bad. some times i wish cady girls would realize their snickers their comments affect me..and others! life is so...complicated..its hard to see the good. maybe life just wasnt cut out for me! maybe im not a strong enough person to face the world. i just hope people will remember me. i just hope life would stop fix my problems then continue. i dont like taking about this with peers because of the whole "emo" thing.

anne frasier said...

aw, anonymous -- big hug. being a teenager is hard as hell. that's all there is to it. i've noticed that a lot of people i've been around lately don't seem to want to talk about anything serious. a whole evening will involve joking around and trying to compete for who can be the funniest. let's not kill the buzz. but there have to be people who really want to talk about feelings and what's below the surface. i know they're out there. i wonder if some of your friends feel the same way you do, but are afraid of coming across as a wimpy or uncool.

anne frasier said...

anonymous, i think the most important thing to do is to talk to somebody. even if it's somebody you don't know such as a person at the suicide hotline network.


i think you'll find that people really do care and want to help.

i know it's hard to take advice from a smoking baby, but i'm a lot older than i look. *hug*

Michele said...

Being a teen is tough, and yep, so not easy. But as an adult, I can look back and feel glad I lived through it, and that I'm here today. (I may have had thoughts about suicide, didn't try, but I did try the whole 'cutting' thing. So I've been there.)
I agree with Anne, you must talk to someone, Anonymous. Because they WILL miss you. And things will get better. And you want to live to look back, and know that life is a struggle, but like Helen paraphrased Downey, it is worth living if you 'live'.

Betina Krahn said...

Hey, anonymous, I'm glad you found this blog and felt comfortable sharing your feelings with us. Snobby, catty girls and cold, indifferent ex-boyfriends. . . these don't go on forever. Believe me, once you finish high school, you'll probably never see half of those irritating jerks again. And good riddance.

You'll grow past them and live beyond them-- you won't let them win by driving you inside yourself. You have talents and abilities, you were meant to be here on this earth and were meant to grow and blossom-- to make your place here. If you can raise your sights a little beyond the immediate pain and disappointments, you'll glimpse a better time coming-- opportunities to grow and learn and become things you haven't even dreamed of.

I'm not talking Hollywood here, I'm talking real life. I'm talking growing up to be a woman of integrity and experience and compassion. . . all of which the world needs desperately. The world needs you to overcome and grow up and blossom into the person you have written in every cell of your being.

As a former fat, depressed fifteen year old girl who had more than her share of catty put-downs and untrustworthy "friends", I can tell you-- it DOES get better. Writing about it, pouring it all out on paper (even if nobody reads it!) is a great first step toward handling the pain and pressure. (I started writing poetry about my feelings in my junior-hi/high-school days and now I'm paid to write books!)

Find someone you can talk to-- someone older, with a little experience, to help you through the tough days.

And come back and see us again. Let us know how you're doing.

Big ol' hugs,


Helen Brenna said...

Anonymous, you ARE strong enough to live this life. You're here. You're writing about it. You're looking for answers, instead of escaping. Be proud.

Always remember that you're not cornered. You are NOT alone. Reach out and hug your mom or dad. You might be surprised.

And remember, too, this is YOUR life. Love yourself even when it seems like no one else does. Four years might seem like an eternity, but it's NOT. Promise.

Protect yourself, move ahead one day at a time, nurture that little grain of hope inside you, and focus on staying ALIVE.

lois greiman said...


Depression is so difficult because it can't really be explained, can't be expressed. It's as if we're unacceptable when we're not the life of the party...the perfect 'package'. Believe me, I've been there. There were days when I couldn't quite get out of bed. Couldn't think of a reason to. But things get better if you give them time, if you talk to people who care...maybe a pastor or a friend, or a parent, or us. Sensitive people have a difficult time in the world. But the world needs sensitve people. We're the ones who change things. And things need changing, so hang in there, find something you care about and go after it. God bless.

Debra Dixon said...

Helen- This is such an important subject. My family was personally touched by suicide when my mother's only nephew killed himself at 16. Many thought if only his best friend hadn't been away at camp that weekend, that my young cousin wouldn't have taken that fatal step.

Having someone you trust to talk with is so important. People do care and getting that message out there is important.

I'm glad you're giving folks a chance to talk about the issue.


Kathleen Eagle said...

Helen, thanks for opeing this door. Arms around you and your daughter and all who grieve for the loss of a child in trouble. It's a hard time, and it's beyond our poor human power to understand how and why.

We lost a teenage nephew to suicide not long ago. The rate of teen suicide is a terrible statistic. Among all groups, it's highest among American Indian teens. During my years of teaching on the reservation it happened all too often, and too often one would follow hard upon another. So I know the heartache of those left behind.

Dear anonymous, you are so brave to put the words down here for others to see. And for you to see. That's maybe the most courageous part--putting the words down and looking at them yourself. This is how you feel right now. There, you said it. It's okay. You have a whole crew of intelligent, sentitive, caring women here telling you that other people feel, have felt, will feel the same way you do. You're not a freak, and you're not alone. These thoughts and feelings won't destroy you. Acting on them to harm yourself is the thing that can destroy you. If you feel your hand reaching in a harmful direction, try with all your might to reach for the phone instead. Or the door to a place where you can find someone you trust. If there's no answer, make yourself try the next number, the next door. And learn to be honest with yourself about who your real friends are. They're the people who help you steer yourself away from harm.

When our days are really hard, we try to remember that we only have to handle one at a time.

Please come back to us tomorrow and tell us how you are. God bless you and keep you.

Debra Dixon said...


Yes, please call someone, one of the suicide hotlines.

People care. We're out there. Many if not all of the folks on the suicide hotlines understand where you're coming from. They've been there or they've faced the same issues. They've felt your pain and they will take you seriously.

Reaching out and having the courage to post your feelings so honestly to this blog is amazing.

Keep reaching. Hug your parents. Call that hotline. Don't forget that people do care even if they suck at showing it sometimes.

Helen Brenna said...

Wow, I actually thought twice about posting this because I worried it was too heavy. Goes to show how much this touches people's lives.

anne frasier said...

helen, i've been surprised that the heaviest and darkest stuff is what people seem to want to talk about on blogs. people seemed to be starved for the opportunity to discuss topics that rarely come up. i'll also bet this isn't an age thing, and that teenagers would talk about it more among their peers if somebody got the conversation going.

i also think a blog or message board could be a really strong tool to reach out to people who don't feel comfortable exposing themselves to friends and family. i totally get that.

thanks so much for the post.

Helen Brenna said...

I think you're right, Anne. It's easier to be anonymous. I can't believe there isn't a blog or message board for this kind of thing.

I'll have to check into that.

Cindy Gerard said...

Oh sweetie - I'm sending big hugs to you! And do you see a pattern here? So many of us have experienced many of the same things you are going through. You are so not alone. And as you can see by the number and tone of the comments on the blog, so many people care. And we are the strangers in your life. Think of the people who you are close to and know you and how much THEY care and would most likely welcome the opportunity to talk to you about how you're feelings if they only knew how you are feeling.
Life is so much more than the present. You will have much better days ahead ... but as the others have said, do talk to someone. You will be so surprised by how much they care.
Again, many many hugs to you.

Helen Brenna said...

Are we moms or what?