Posted in Teenage Suicide

The Causes of Teenage Suicide

The topic of teenage suicide has been high on my list of concerns since the first of two suicides of girls my daughter’s age in the seventh grade. Six of my children’s peers have committed suicide in the same number of years.  When the national statistic for teenage suicide is 7 out of 100,000 students of the same age, the suicide rate in my daughter’s class alone is alarmingly high!  FIVE OUT OF 250!  As a parent, and a psychological and personal development professional, I am deeply concerned!  What is happening with our children and how can we help them?

Teenage suicide is an enormous topic and one that will not be solved through a single action (or blog in this case). But as a dear friend and respected colleague recently stated, our goal around the topic of teenage suicide should be ZERO TOLERANCE. None of our children should be left to believe that suicide is the only way out of whatever difficult situation is troubling them.  Preventing teen suicide and providing support for those who have lost a family member or friend to suicide requires the collaborative efforts of many people, social service, educational and government entities.  Before we can solve the problem of teenage suicide, however, we must first explore the underlying causes of suicide.


While this list is by no means exhaustive, it gives us a glimpse into many pieces of a complicated puzzle that when added up, might lead one to believe death is the only possible solution.


Our teens are under an enormous amount of stress. Stress related to:

Relationships – peers, friends, family, cliques, boyfriends, girlfriends, breakups, heartbreak, unrequited love, divorce, etc.

Pressure to Achieve – school, pressure to do well in school, decisions about college and career, pressure from the media, friends, family, pressure to belong, pressure to conform, etc.

The World – as I mentioned in a previous blog, “Our Kids Are Not Alright!,” our world is a mess!  Our children have NEVER not known a world at war!  Our economic and political situations are the worst they’ve ever been.  The educational outlook (the reason for pursuing education post-high school) is grim.  Our children know that the promise of a “financially rewarding career” after college is a lie.  They are facing the very real possibility of not being able to afford college (tuition rates are at an all-time high), and that the only way to attend might be through student loans which will leave them forever indebted to the government and never able to buy their own home.  This is real folks!  And our children know it!

Stress untreated = more stress = apathy = anxiety = depression



Every death, change, disappointment, hurt feeling, divorce, physical move, school transfer, breakup, change in the status of friend relationships, etc. triggers grief. In our culture we don’t know how to do grief.  We don’t even know what grief is, let alone how to deal with it.  This is no different for our children.  They are grieving, they might not know they are grieving (or the symptoms of grief), and there are few there to help them (we can’t help them if we don’t know how to grieve ourselves!).

Grief untreated = anxiety and depression


Abuse is rampant in our society and many of our children are living in abusive situations – physical, emotional, mental, verbal, spiritual, sexual, being bullied or neglected. Whether they are being abused, or someone else in their home or close-knit circle of friends is, they suffer the effects of abuse.  On-going abuse can lead to PTSD, depression, anxiety, panic attacks and other “diagnosable” mental illnesses.

Abuse untreated = anxiety = depression = PTSD = panic attacks



While teenage suicide is not unique to any specific socio-economic category, poverty adds another dimension of stress– poverty, hunger, homelessness, poor nutrition, access to quality healthcare (or any healthcare for that matter), transient families, etc. all contribute additional stressors in an already difficult situation that might lead to believing death is ones best option.

Poverty = anxiety = isolation = depression = helplessness = hopelessness



According to the DSM (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual), this category should fall under that of “mental illness.” I refuse to put learning and processing issues under this category as it would only reinforce the false perception that if we learn differently from what the Common Core says is the “norm” there is something “wrong” with us.  While some “learning disabilities” are readily identified and accommodations are able to be made (because this is mandated by the State or Federal government), most are not.  Dyslexia, for example, is one processing issue that often falls through the cracks.  This does not even begin to touch learning style differences and sensitivity issues.  HSP’s (highly sensitive people) are not identified in education, neither are accommodations made for them.  When our children learn by seeing or doing and teaching is not adapted to meet their needs, or accommodations are not offered to help them learn, they can’t learn.  And when they can’t learn, they cannot succeed in education.

Not learning=not achieving=not succeeding=feelings of failure=stress, depression, anxiety, etc.



See above! No wonder the number of children who are being treated for symptoms consistent with mental illness – depression, anxiety, panic attacks, PTSD, etc. is at an all-time high.  Our children are suffering and much of this remains unrecognized, unacknowledged and therefore, untreated.  Throw in access to healthcare (or rather, the lack thereof) and a culture that is incapable of processing grief and you have a MESS!  Our children need our help!

Depression    Anxiety    Panic Attacks    PTSD


Preventing teenage suicide begins by treating it at its cause. When we go directly to the cause we effectively eliminate the issues that would lead one to believing death is the only answer.  While this approach ultimately means widespread systemic change, the resources are already here, if we know where to look and if we can figure out how to work together toward this common goal.  While we might not save every life, our goal should be to make teenage suicide rare, instead of what has already happened in Oshkosh where teenage suicide has become expected and almost normal.  This is wrong….way wrong, and as parents and professionals, it is our responsibility to do something about it!


Posted in grief

Holidays Bring Additional Stress for the Grieving

The Holidays can be a difficult and stressful time for anyone, but especially for those who are grieving.  If you or someone you know has recently suffered a loss, you may find it helpful to explore the benefits of self-care.

For those who are grieving, holidays can be difficult

As I stare the impending holidays in the face, I am immediately reminded of what a difficult time of year this can be.  While many experience the holidays as a time of celebration, friends and family, many experience the holidays as anything but a time of joy.  For those who have recently suffered a loss (“recent” is a relative term!), the holidays can be a time of sadness, loneliness and isolation.  The holidays also tend to stir of old wounds of loss and bring them back to the surface for another layer of processing and healing.  To compound the challenge of the holidays for those who are mourning is that darn guilt demon that creeps in and tries to tell us how we “should” be feeling and what we “should” be doing. Then there are those really well meaning souls who mistakenly tell us to “get over it, move on, cheer up.”

First Aid for the Holidays

So, how might we respond to the grief we may be feeling during the holiday season or to the grief we might be seeing in another?  Below is a list of ideas for those who are grieving and for those who may know someone who is struggling with grief this holiday season:

Help if you are grieving:

  • Be kind to yourself
  • Honor your feelings – if you are sad, cry; angry, find a healthy release; lonely, seek out a friend; if you want to be alone, be alone.
  • Be proactive about creating opportunities to be nurtured:  schedule a massage, go out for a lovely meal, treat yourself to a day to just be, make time to be with special friends and family members.
  • Take time to be present to the grief and allow it to move through you in a healthy, gentle way.
  • Avoid giving into the guilt demon – nobody else knows how you are feeling and what you need than you!  Take care of the vulnerable part of you and give it what it needs.
  • Schedule an appointment with your counselor or spiritual director for support with your grief.
  • If at anytime you are experiencing thoughts of suicide….GET HELP.  You can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline:  1800-273-8255 or go to their website for a listing of local services:

If you know someone who is grieving:

  • Reach out to them
  • Invite them to talk to you about the person/s they lost and to express their grief
  • Take time to listen to their grief, don’t try to fix it, just be present as a listening presence
  • Don’t be tempted to tell them how they “should” be feeling or what they “should” be doing, honor their process
  • If they are alone, find out if they have plans for the holidays and invite them to join you if they wish
  • Encourage them to seek professional help through a counselor or spiritual director if you feel they may benefit from additional support
  • If you suspect they are suicidal, help them get help.  See above for the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline contact information

What we grieve

Another thing I am reminded of is that there are all kinds of grief and they all can show up at the holidays.  So here is a brief list of things we grieve and an invitation to remember it is not just death that shows up in our grieving:

  • A death of an acquaintance of loved one
  • A terminal diagnosis for ourselves or someone we know or love
  • A diagnosis of a serious illness
  • A job loss
  • Divorce
  • Children leaving the home
  • Parents, children, ourselves aging
  • A significant change in our normal life routine
  • The decision to enter into a recovery program (we grieve the loss of that which formerly gave us comfort – cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, compulsive sexual activity, etc.)
  • A significant disappointment (not getting a job we wanted, not getting accepted for a promotion or to the college we wanted, etc.)
  • A relationship breakup

In the end, the invitation is to be present to the grief, allow it to unfold organically and be kind and gentle with ourselves and others.

Lauri Lumby

Authentic Freedom Ministries