Is your child depressed or suicidal? Do you even know?
What if your child was suicidal and you weren’t even aware of it? That’s a terrifying thought, and something to be concerned about.
Last year, 179,000 teens were brought into the emergency room after a failed suicide attempt. Statistically, about 35 percent of these young people will try again and succeed.
I don’t want to be the first to tell you this, but we are raising our children to grow up dead and it’s our fault as parents.
“How dare you say this,” you might say. I know, right?
I’m Jeff Yalden, and for the past 27 years I have worked in the field of teen mental health and motivation. I have been “in the trenches” with teens, teachers, counselors, school communities, mental health professionals and parents. Much of my work involves suicide prevention and crisis intervention. Please visit my website at www.TheJYF.org.
I do this work every day.
Here is a screen shot from a young lady I have been talking to for the past 12 hours.
I am having this conversation with someone’s child. A mother doesn’t know that her daughter is feeling this way. Yes, I am concerned and doing all the professional work I can to make sure we get to this young lady right away. I’ve worked with her a few times and got this young lady the help she needed, but the thoughts and feelings are coming back. She is reaching out again and this time it’s a little more severe and concerning.
This young lady is tired. Many of our teens are tired, and we might brush it off with, “You’re tired? Why are you tired? I’ll show you tired…”
But I promise you that many of our young people are exhausted. Their lack of coping and problem-solving skills are an issue. Their balance and boundaries are off-kilter and their self-care is almost nonexistent.
Remember – we don’t know what we don’t know. Our young people don’t know what having time off means. How could they? In this hyperconnected world, they are on 24/7, 365 every day of their lives.
Yes, they’re tired and it’s understandable.
In a short blog post, I can’t get into the psychology of this, but you can Google social media depression, dopamine, cyberbullying or read my book “Teen Suicide: The Why Behind America’s Suicide Epidemic.” I’m not writing this to sell my book, but if you buy a copy I can eat that ice cream sundae I don’t need. (Just a little humor to not make this so alarming and depressing.)
This is a parenting issue....
Did that just piss you off? Maybe that’s a good thing, especially if it helps you to start taking teen mental health more seriously. You should.
Today’s technology has given our kids great opportunities and platforms where information is at their fingertips. Education is free, we can be in-touch instantly and be liked by many, but – and this is a big “but” - it’s come with really concerning consequences to our mental well-being.
Our children don’t understand that their brains are not mature enough to handle the emotional toll that this technology is having on their mental health.
But, why is it a parenting issue?
Because it’s your phone. Because it’s you that is allowing your kids to have social media profiles like Instagram and Snapchat before they reach 13. It’s your fault that you’re allowing your children to spend four to six hours a day on their smartphones, to sleep with their smartphones, and now these devices have become their connection to the world.
They’re feeling more alone today, a subject I covered at length in my book. They are so much more connected, yet they are disconnected. They feel like they are a disappointment, yet there are so many opportunities handed to them. They say they want to die, but do they really?
But let’s be serious…
We are raising our children to grow up dead, right before our eyes – and we are allowing this.
Parents control device usage. It’s not the other way around.
The problem is not going away, either. A new world of technology has infiltrated our homes, yet there’s no TSA checkpoint at our front door to our space of home and family – our supposed safe place.
Parents - next time you give your small child your phone or iPad because it SHUTS THEM UP, remember – that’s only a quick fix because it makes things easier in the moment. You are sacrificing your child’s mental well-being later for your comfort and peace now. You will regret this.
I’m a parent. Parenting isn’t easy. Being a teenager or a child today isn’t easy. Teaching and coaching isn’t easy. I know this isn’t easy.
We are the adults. We know better and this is all our responsibility. If your child can’t put the smartphone down, then you make them put it down.
Be a parent and not a buddy. You know better. Have them sit and look out the window and be happy. Encourage them to dream, think, feel and to be present. Get your small children to be creative by making a pillow fort or play a family board game.
Look at the screenshot again. This is someone’s child, and some parent doesn’t have any clue about how she is doing or what potentially could have happened the night before. This child, like many others, isn’t reaching out to anyone other than me.
The parents will know shortly and I hope they take this seriously. If they don’t, I’ll advise the school counselors and administration to call child services or have her taken away in a police car. There is a serious threat in our conversations. This is urgent, and every minute is too much time that this child is alone in unhealthy thoughts and feelings.
Parents, please take the mental health of your children seriously.
Betty Brennan and I have these conversations every day. We take this seriously because we see and hear it every day. Do not be the next parent that calls and says, “Jeff/Betty, I never thought this would be my child.”
Please be a more active, invested parent and prioritize your responsibilities as a parent for the well-being of all our children.
Thank you for letting me share this and my heart. I wish the best for all our families and our children. I love my work and the inspiration and hope I can give our teens and children.