Sunday, January 08, 2006

Would you? Or wouldn't you?

My son goes back to school after the holidays and learns that a classmate has committed suicide. The first day was unclear - heard there was an accident or he had hung himself. The second day confirmed the hanging. The obituary said he 'died suddenly.'

Before the holidays a girl stepped out in front of a train. Two trains were passing in opposite directions. She crossed after the first went by right as the second started to pass. There were counseling sessions at the school and memorials left at the railroad crossing.

Being familiar with suicide attempts via my mom, depression via me and my kids, I would choose to open up. But I understand and respect those families who can't face that. People say that there is nothing worse than losing a kid. Losing a kid to suicide is worse - lots worse.

I wish I were professionally qualified to speak at schools about depression and suicide. Depression can be fatal, but it is treatable. If your kid needed medication to treat an illness that could kill, you would make sure those meds got taken. But stigma - the idea that mental illness is 'all in your head' - prevents people from getting treatment or helping the mentally ill. Your brain is a part of your body. If your body gets sick, you go to the doctor and get treatment. Mental illness is the brain getting sick.

It is also a mistake to always dismiss kids' moods as normal adolescence. The best thing to happen to my kid was a unit on depression in health class in 7th grade. He was able to come home and say 'I feel like that.' The biggest challenge was finding a child psychiatrist. So I would like to think that I would open up to help other families.

I'm not criticizing anyone. I can't presume to know the dynamics of other families. We all do the best we can. My thoughts and prayers are with those who are affected by mental illness.

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