Tragedy In the Heartland – Mental Illness and Depression are Real

Yesterday, my normal day was interrupted by a phone call from a friend who was attending a Veteran’s Day program at a small, local school that happened to be the school I attended, and one that my children attended most of their lives. When I saw his name on my phone, I knew instantly something was wrong. I answered, and straight away he said he noticed I was friends with a certain family on Facebook and that something terrible had just happened at the school.

During the program, the elementary, middle and high schools had joined in the high school gymnasium to pay tribute to the relatives of students who happened to be veteran’s. During that time, a male student managed to sneak off and go to the middle school boy’s locker room area and take his own life. The middle and high school are joined by a hallway and library. As I said, it’s a small, rural school system with about 1,400 students total.

Immediately I felt as if a bus had hit my heart. I had suspected something was going on with this family because they had made several posts that pertained to depression and thoughts of suicide. I watched, I prayed and hoped the posts would eventually become more uplifting and triumphant – they did not and now, this family is broken apart by the loss of a child.

As news broke on local television and through news station feeds, the articles gave details of a 17-year-old student taking his life in the middle school. The comments that would flood those segments were troubling to me.

Some people were focusing more on the fact that a student of that age was in the middle school rather than focusing on the horrible tragedy itself. To me, it was as if the depression and deep darkness this child must have felt didn’t matter.

The protective person I am, I replied with comments like “What does that matter?”What difference would that make?” I then created the comment shown below to which this “Kim” chick responded in a way that isn’t too surprising, given the nosy, over-entitled world we live in. The name of the kid nor his family had been released yet – but obviously she wanted to be the first to break that news.

Mental Illness and Depression are RealMental Illness and Depression are Real

The lack of empathy, sympathy and kindness in our world is overwhelming. Although I didn’t really want to, I did do the respectable thing and covered Kim’s full name – obviously not a skill she’s mastered.

What matters most here is, there was this child! A child who obviously found himself in a very dark place. A place where he thought his family would be better off without him. A place where the hurt was so great that he could not see, or believe, that the pain would pass.

Rather than focusing on what a news reporter MIGHT have gotten wrong, or digging for a skeleton that would place a child of that age in a school where he was not a student – we should be focusing on depression among our youth. We should be focusing on fixing the cruel kids rather than simply sweeping it under the rug with a cliché’ that “kids are mean and cruel.”

Kids are mean and cruel because they battle their own demons. That in turn causes them to create demons for other children through acts of bullying. It is a vicious circle that needs to be addressed and broken.

As I have mentioned many times, when I was ten, I lost my brother because of a bully. My brother was thirteen, his bully was sixteen. On the bus, the bully turned his class ring upside down to where the large stone was in the palm of his hand. The bully hit my brother in the head SO HARD. Three days later, my brother had a severe cerebral hemorrhage that would send him into a coma and would ultimately take his life, two weeks later.

Teaching your children empathy is one of the greatest gifts you can give them. Teach them to be a friend first – never a foe. As for grownups that lack empathy and are cruel in their own ways, call them out. Make them OWN their words and actions. No one should ever have to be hurt by the words or actions of another when it’s completely unnecessary.

Whether or not this particular suicide had anything to do with bullying, I’m not sure – but when it comes to teens, their social life and social acceptance are paramount. Apart from abuse at home, for which I am more than certain that was not the case, bullying and social pressure, real or imagined, can likely be factored in somewhere.

In the end, like I said in my Facebook comment – at times like these – it’s so important to be respectful of the family that’s left behind. If the questions you have are not going to help the situation, just hold your questions, keep reading, because eventually, it will probably be answered. There were no weapon’s involved. There were no other student’s in harm’s way. The school handled the situation appropriately and are providing counseling for students – apart from that, the minute details should only matter to the family – not the general public.

If you can’t be KIND, then do everyone a favor and just be QUIET!

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