Please note: The City Council on Wednesday, February 21 passed a resolution in support of suicide prevention. His latest message that follows is about this very topic:
By Mayor Harrington
One of the worst calls a first responder goes to is suicide. My first day on patrol I was dispatched to a suicide involving a middle-aged man who was suffering mental health issues. The family watched as he slowly and uncontrollably fell into the abyss of mental illness culminating in him taking his own life. They were helpless in the aftermath, asking me if there was something more they could have done. I had no answers. When, in subsequent years on patrol, it involved a child or teenager, it was even worse.
In 2015 according to the CDC, there were 1,537 reported suicides among males aged 15-19 and 524 among females the same age. While one is too many, these numbers are below the peak level between the mid-1980s and mid-90s. These numbers are on the rise since 2007 and represent real tragedy for the victim and the families and friends left behind to deal with the aftermath. There are many theories for this increase, including bullying, school pressure and mental illness. The added impact of the internet and ease of obtaining information has left parents feeling helpless.
I was home just the other evening sitting down to dinner with my wife and three teenagers (two sophomores and a junior at ANHS) who were acting less than their jovial selves, so my wife and I asked them what was going on. They wondered if we had heard about a fellow student who committed suicide. I told them we had and asked them how they felt about the incident. They said they felt sorry for the kid but weren’t sure how to feel. We explained to them the many reasons for someone taking his or her own life and the finality of the act. We talked to them for about half an hour just on this topic. We listened and asked if they felt pressure or had any issues we should know about. We talked about life, how precious it is and how final death is for those left behind. Most importantly, we talked.
Our kids are fairly typical teenagers, struggling with school, sports, girls and boys. They love their electronic devices and the ability to communicate with their friends without mom and dad being privy to all communications (that they know of!). We are more cognizant of the pressures kids are facing via social media, school and sports. As typical parents, we probably let our guard down more than we should have. We try not to do that anymore.
I don’t pretend to have all the answers or any of the answers. I am sharing my experiences in hopes it helps some parent somewhere struggling to find a way to reach his or her child before it’s too late. Talk to your kids. If you think they are not listening, then talk to them some more. Be there for them; be involved with their school; go to their games; and take them to games if they don’t play. You will be surprised to see how they interact with other kids both good and bad. This will give you something to talk about. Look for signs they are struggling with school, try not to pile on the pressure and be there to take some of it off. Be your kids’ advocate when it comes to school. Persistence can be a real benefit to breaking through.
Another benefit of being involved with your kids is getting to know the parents of their friends. There is no better system of informants than one involving parents. My kids cannot believe how they continually get caught doing something stupid. I always tell them there is nothing they do that I don’t know about. Parents, get to know the other parents – we can do this together much better than we can alone. Life is precious and none more so than our kids. Talk to them!
If you feel your teen is in crisis, call the Orange County Crisis/Suicide Prevention Hotline at 877-7-CRISIS or visit https://www.211oc.org/crisis-services/suicide-prevention-hotlines.html.