On March 14, 2017, someone I knew committed suicide.
Immediately my phone began buzzing. People were sending their thoughts and prayers, flooding Snapchat with purple hearts and messages of “Rest in Peace”. Instantly a numb sensation flooded over me. I had heard about teen suicides; in movies, in the news, and on television. But never in eternity did I expect one to actually happen, so close to me and my community.
By no means was he a family member. Or a close friend. Or even an acquaintance. He was just a person who went to my school. Someone who I followed on social media. Someone who I saw once in a while in the hallways between classes. I’ve maybe said a few words to him my entire life. But the effects of his death still resonate with me to this very day.
I remember asking myself, what if I had done something? What if I had said hello to him every day in the halls of my bleak secondary school? What if I had become his friend, and supported him during what had obviously been a conflicted time of his life? Would I have been able to make a difference? Would he still be here today?
None of those questions have answers. He is already gone.
Teen suicide can be caused by many factors. In my classmate’s case, he was cyberbullied to the point of self-harm, and taunted constantly for his homosexuality at school. He never reached out for help or counseling, and had to face his troubles alone.
In an age where social media and the internet has become a pedestrian concept of society, there’s no wonder so many teens are facing the likes of depression and suicide. Teens are constantly striving to achieve the unobtainable; a perfect online image. In doing so, many teenagers, including my classmate, are subjected to cyberbullying and online torment, which can lead to depression, self-harm, and suicide. The constant comparisons and judgement that comes with an online presence often equates to lack of self-confidence and a feeling of worthlessness. Being a teen is already an arduous time of one’s life, from our changing minds and bodies to the pressures of growing up, and the constant social pressures teens of this generation face from the internet only fans the flames.
Teen suicide in the United States is a growing issue, and it is vital that communities across the country start to work, step-by-step, to minimalize the effects of teen suicide. For the sake of our friends, our family, and all the teens in this world struggling, it is time we make a change.
As philosophers once said, “To kill a weed, you must pull from the roots.” The change I want to make to prevent teen suicides starts from the very roots of the American education system. I believe it is important that we educate the children and young adults of this country about mental health, and this is something that the American education system is lacking. In many areas of the country, including my own community, children and teens are not aware of the causes of teen suicide, and what can be done to prevent them from happening. Resources, such as counseling and medical help, are not emphasized in typical educational systems, forcing too many teens to face their own problems in the dark.
To implement this change, I would bring my concerns to my local board of education. The board of education is the committee that oversees all education related issues in my community. I have recently introduced a petition among my fellow peers, and have spoken with adults close to me about positive changes we could make in our education system. My community has already felt the effects of teen suicide, and if we can initiate a movement of greater mental health education, other communities won’t have to feel the same pain that ours did.
If you are reading this and are contemplating ending your life, or know someone who might be, please, find help immediately. You are wanted. You are cherished. You are loved. You are beautiful. You are important. Suicide is never the answer.