In the last week I had two discussions with parents of two different 14 year old boys who were dealing with some very difficult issues around “fitting in” at school in one case, and unable to attend school due to medical issues in the other case.
The parents in both cases were clear that their teen boys needed assistance, yet in one case it was stated as OCD and PANDAS – which is an infection to the brain by strep – and the other was stated to be a need to learn to transition better because of his ADD.
What neither parent was able to see in their child was the deep sadness, sense of loss, and frustration they felt for being “different” and thus not “fitting in” with their peers.
Though OCD, PANDAS and ADD can certainly create some issues that need to be contended with, the more serious issue is that of depression. This is because the nature of depression is to progress from feelings of “not wanting to be in this world any longer, it’s just too hard” to “I want to kill myself”, to having a plan, to doing the suicidal act. So, this is the most serious of all conditions that needs to be cleared – even before any of the other stuff can be dealt with. This is because a depressed mind is not functioning at a level where the possibility of health and happiness even exists. Everything is waaaaaay to hard to deal with, so rolling over in bed is the method most use to shut out the world.
With kids, the use of technology to “play” operates in the same fashion as any addiction would a person from an earlier generation with regard to shutting out the painful thoughts by over medicating with alcohol or drugs, gambling, sex addiction, workaholism, etc.
If you don’t believe this is a problem, let me give you the very sad statistics, to open your mind to what you may be truly dealing with:
According to the National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the suicide rate in 2007 for the United States was 10.9 per 100,000, where the rate for adolescent males ages 15 – 24 was much higher at 20.3 per 100,000. It is the third leading cause of death of male youth,( Kochanek, Murphy, Anderson & Scott, 2002), occurring four to five times the rate of suicide among adolescent females, 3.5% per 100,000 (National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, 2006; Prevention of Suicide in Adolescents, 2006).
Adolescent females will attempt suicide four to five more times than males, however the males successfully complete suicide much more often.The reason that males complete the suicide more often is because of the fast acting methods they employ including hanging themselves or using a firearm. Females will use pills which are do not have as an immediate response to the body.
Why are our young males doing these deadly acts to themselves? This is a good question and one that isn’t as fully understood as it needs to be. However, here are a few answers that I found in Psychology Today in the article “Boys To Men written by Mile Groth, Ph.D., August of 2013.
The first issue is that of young males not having a father in their household in which to role model. This leaves a young male uncertain of what his role is to be in our society. I would say from the young males that I have treated for depression, many father’s or parents, in general expect their kids to fulfill the same goals they did or worse, those goals they never fulfilled themselves. This puts undo stress on a teen who is working on figuring out his own identity, separating from his parents as a normal part of maturation. The expectation that a teen has to be “perfect” in every respect to get into Ivy League universities or to follow in the father’s career footsteps is also a huge detriment to the teen being able to figure out who he is and what he would like to do with his own life, this being the second reason listed for the high rate of suicides particularly among young males.
Body image and dating females also comes into question at this stage in life. I would add that I lost my best childhood friend at the age of 39 because he was gay and his parents didn’t see it, didn’t acknowledge it even after he hung himself. During high school his mother was always asking him when he would be going on a date with some girl, and this put him in a double bind. He wasn’t interested in girls from the time he was 6 years old if not before given the way he wanted to play the “mother’ when we played house as kids.
There is also this idea that a kid by the time they are 18 ought to know exactly what they want to do with their lives, and yet, few males have a clue. They are still maturing and figuring out who they are, never mind what they want to dedicate their life’s energy on career wise. This takes young males a lot longer to figure out then their female peers who many times know what they want once they get out of college.
Lastly, because there has been so much press about “the end of men” or “Are Men Necessary,”,many young males may wonder if there is a place for them in our world as it currently is.
Add the sorts of mental health and physical health issues I spoke about in the beginning of this article to these very hard questions these kids are asking themselves, and one can better understand why it is that we may have more suicides among young men today then we have ever seen before.
It is my deepest desire to help our youth to understand that they can indeed have joyful and fulfilled lives, if they would only reach out and get the help they need before they end up as a statistic as my best friend sadly became.
If you believe that your teen or college kid is feeling too much pressure in school, not feeling like they are fitting in, or are battling some health issue – please do let them know that you believe that they are not feeling particularly joyful and why it is that you came to this conclusion. Then ask them if that feels right to them? Let them talk, if they will, and listen to everything they are saying, what they are saying between the lines and most of all what they are failing to tell you.
It is your job as the parent to keep your children safe and to receive the help they require. To do that you need to be alert as to the changes in your child’s demeanor:
- Is he angry, sad, irritable or frustrated more then he was in the past?
- Are his school grades dipping?
- Is he sleeping more or not at all?
- Is he eating way more than before especially crap food, or not eating much at all?
- Are there any new friends that you may not feel are very good for him because of their being involved in drugs or uninterested in school or productive activities?
- Is he pulling away from social engagements or activities he once enjoyed.
These are all symptoms of depression that one needs to be aware of to truly help your son out of the “funk” that could unfortunately take his life if you hide yourself from these clues. Please be proactive for the sake of your sons and of your family as a whole. Because once a kid commits suicide it becomes a trauma for all who knew him during his life. I get to treat many who have had this occur in their families and with their close friends, as well as having to deal with it myself.
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