How can I keep my kid from killing herself?

for The Brooklyn Paper
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First he created pandemonium by firing shots in the air at one of New Jersey’s largest malls, then 21-year-old Richard Shoop killed himself in the bowels of the building. His actions seem dramatic and out of the ordinary, but suicide is the third-largest cause of death in Americans between the ages of 10 and 24, and boys account for the vast majority of these tragic fatalities.

Many details of Shoop’s life are still missing from the public record. First reports paint a picture of a young man who had some problems, but was kind, well-liked, and had family support and friends, yet still took his own life.

That’s what scares me.

I expect, believe, and depend on the idea that I will know when my daughters need my help. But evidence suggests it ain’t necessarily so.

Just last month, a 15-year-old, Christian Adamek, hung himself. A popular kid, he pulled a prank by streaking across the field of a high school football game in Alabama. Within a week, Christian’s world spun out of control when officials took a zero-tolerance approach, threatening him with arrest and conviction as a sex offender. His parents were there, on his side, but didn’t know how desperate he’d become when he killed himself.

Even in small ways, my daughters are likely to wait too long before asking me for help. One got way behind with a term paper, going to teachers and friends, consequences mounting, before I knew. Of course, schoolwork is a minor issue in the grand scheme of things. Still, the message is clear: parents aren’t the first to know what’s going on inside their adolescent’s head.

Looking for the signs is one thing , but it may not be enough. Even keeping open channels of communication only helps if they’re used.

Take the story of bullied 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick. With mom’s help, Rebecca changed schools and got counseling. When the bullies relentlessly followed her in cyberspace, the girl didn’t turn to her mother. Instead, she jumped off of a silo.

None of these young people’s lives are simple stories, but each filled with specific, personal details that, if we knew them all, would paint a rich and complex picture of what brought them to their horrific decisions. As outsiders, we will never know it all.

The lesson, though, is that no parent can know everything going on in her or his child’s life. The emotional turmoil of teenage years, the small feelings that go nuclear in a day, are all part of this age, just as separating from your parents is, too. All this works against me, as a parent, and my desire to help and protect my girls, supporting them as they face life’s assault.

I feel for Richard Shoop’s parents, not simply for their heart-rending loss, but for the questions they will ask themselves. What could I have done? How did I miss the signs? What did I do wrong?

The answer is even harder – you did all you could. Sometimes that’s not enough.

Read The Dad every other Thursday on
Updated 3:32 pm, November 14, 2013
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Reasonable discourse

MAry from Bay Ridge says:
Teenagers lives are so different now, you just can't walk away from the bullying. While technology has amazingly changed the world we live in, I worry what it has done to the young people who have grown up with it. My child is still young so I haven't seen first hand what it is like. I am trying to raise her to know that nothing is ever that bad. No problem that she has is unsolveable. We as her parents are happy that she comes to us now and are hoping we can always keep that line of communication open. Like you said though, some of these kids had parents who were there for them and they still felt so overwhelmed that they took their own lives. Very sad and scary..
Nov. 14, 2013, 9:50 am
failed from society says:
It's our goverment that's the failure, not the people. Where political ambitions take presidence over social needs, where exploiting people is justification for maximizing the tax base.

Goverment fines the bad guys, fairly taxes the good guys and take as much as they can from the wealthy. The goverment is sucking us dry. We make it, they take it!

And anything that challenges it, is ostracized, compromized - especially our individulism. Goverment oppresses every natural human complusion and only permits conformancy. Their way or the highway.

Even in our schools, our young is used by our goverment to make itself look good. How are our scores in relationship to other states, other goverments?

It not suppose to be a contest. It's a place to learn. And not just about math and science, but about social interaction, respect of your fellow man/woman and the environment (the place that we all live).

Rather, the kid with a problem is kicked to the curb, brought to the counsler for special treatment like there a freek - and that's just how they feel. Think about someone feeling down on themself because someone made them feel different, and then the system takes them out of class to analize them - brilliant!

Imagine a place where kids sit in a room together, in a circle so they can look at each other, are given partners to share with and conduct social exercises together, where they get to interact on a one-on-one basis with every classmate, each understanding the other and doing the same in mini groups. Learning that we are all the same, with fears, compulsions, weekness, sadness, pressures, etc. A place where we are not only forced to find friends, but where everyone is taught to be your friend and you theirs.

As the goverment forces us to put our children into this institutionalized system, they have the responsibility of caring for them, and they're failing us. Sadly, the most dangerous place for our kids, has become our schools - socially and physically.
Nov. 14, 2013, 11:24 am

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