Wednesday, May 10, 2017

The S is not for Silence

     We have a problem in our community. Actually in our area. Really, in our region. Heck, it's a problem statewide and it was accentuated in my mind as I listened to a senior recital. The showcased girl has amazing talents. She's confident, strong, winsome, nice, respectful---she could very well be the perfect daughter. And I contrasted that with the kids I've known who have decided as Wordsworth said, "The world is too much with us (them)." It was too much for them so they checked out--early. Painfully leaving behind a bevy of "Whys" and "What ifs" and "If onlys." This is a problem where I live and it's time we address this issue before another teen feels overwhelmed by life and believes he/she is better off without living out the rest of theirs.
     My Tuesday/Thursday book club is reading the book 13 Reasons Why and had begun the book prior to the latest heart-breaker. Add to that the controversy stirred from the movie and you have a tenuous hold on  a book club. I was thinking about how to address this in light of the recent tragedy, but really, I didn't have to do anything at all. The kids talked about it. They wanted to talk about it. We had a terrific discussion. I was mulling it over later, noticing the silence that the incident had garnered. No one wanted to talk about it. Suicide--there, I said it. And I think we as educators need to be saying it more and more. Let's take a proactive approach to this heinous action. Let's talk to kids, early and often. We took proactive stances on tobacco and alcohol usage and saw usage reduce. Why can't the same happen with the "S" word? The word no one wants to even whisper out loud in fear another student will get the idea.
      I'm here to tell you talking about suicide in a proactive manner probably won't incite anyone to act on their thoughts. Rather, wouldn't it seem more logical that those who are dealing with depression and other mental health issues would feel acknowledged and perhaps reach out for help? We don't need to be silent anymore. We've been silent long enough and where has that gotten us? With three teens in school who felt like the world was too much with them. In a year. That's not counting my student who graduated last year who ended his life this past fall. Four young lives ended prematurely leaving gaps in our world and our lives.
     Silence has gotten us no where. No where. It's time we change tactics and become proactive rather than reactive. Another young person doesn't need to lose the battle because caring adults were few and far between in his or her life.
     I know there will be more suicides in the future. But let's stem the tide. Let's start talking about this issue. Let's let our students know how much we care about them. Perhaps I'm being pollyanna-ish, but it's time to open our mouths and talk to kids. Even the young lady who sang amazingly at her senior recital last night could have entertained those thoughts. You don't know if you don't talk about.
     Remember, S is not for silence. It's for suicide. Care enough to talk to teens about it. It could make all the difference.

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