On March 31, 2017, Netflix released a television show called Thirteen Reasons Why. The show focuses on a seventeen-year-old high school student, Hannah Baker, who kills herself in one of the most graphically disturbing scenes available for consumption. Filmed in the Bay Area, Thirteen Reasons Why continues to shed light on the impact of suicide in our everyday lives even though the show is set in a fictional reality. Teenage suicide and depression is a pressing issue in our society and immediate community: students at Terra Linda exhibit bouts of depression and suicidal tendencies. Suicide and depression should be talked about frequently to ensure people they aren’t alone in this battle.
According to the Jason Foundation, an average of 3,041 suicide attempts are made every day by adolescents between the grades of nine and twelve in the U.S.A. It follows that, with around 1,200 students here at TL, there could be 45 attempts at suicide made by the end of the school year, as there are approximately 14.4 million high school age adolescents in the U.S.A. While this is not representative of the number of successful suicides, it still presents a large number of people at TL and in the U.S.A. who could successfully commit suicide if not helped. There are signs that can be recognized when someone is contemplating suicide, even though a variety of factors can trigger suicidal thoughts.
Astrid Koltun, an on-campus psychologist here at TL, explains that depression and suicidal thoughts can be triggered by many different factors. “Genetics play a role; however depression and suicidal thoughts are usually triggered by a big change in one’s life,” Ms. Koltun illustrated. Signs someone is contemplating suicide ARE excessive sadness or moodiness, withdrawing from activities, changes in appearance, talking about being a “burden”, and self harming and/or dangerous behavior. Suicide is often impulsive, so it is extremely important to recognize these signs and make an attempt to help the person exhibiting those signs.
One freshman (who wishes to stay anonymous) lost a close friend to suicide in 2017. He found out through his friend’s mother, who had sent out an email to cancel a traditional Christmas party because of her son’s suicide. When the young man found out, he was shocked. He stated, “I didn’t even know that he was even thinking about suicide…when I heard the news I was devastated.” His friend had hung himself from a tree in the backyard where his family eventually found him. People who lose peers to suicide normally don’t expect it– it comes as a tremendous shock. This is why communication is key. Though finding the right people to talk to can sometimes be challenging, for those who care, lending a willing ear is a privilege, not a burden. And for people who don’t know where to turn, there are many support structures in place to help with open arms.
If one doesn’t find the help that is provided by so many people, they could turn to suicide instead. Suicide has far-reaching consequences: a sophomore, also wishing to stay anonymous, shared her story of losing her grandfather to suicide before she was born. Her grandfather killed himself when her father was in his early twenties. She explains she was told her grandpa went into her dad’s room and shot himself. However, the student was never told why her grandpa chose that way to end his life. Sometimes the deep pain of others is tough to make sense, and goes unaddressed “It made me jealous whenever someone would talk about their grandpa because I’ve never had a grandfather figure in my life,” she explains. Losing a family member to suicide will still affect generations to come. One who takes one’s own life may not realize that they are never going to be able to see their children graduate, get married, excel in a career, and meet their grandchildren.
An anonymous girl came forward describing her experience in a 5150 in seventh grade. A 5150 is when one is temporarily and involuntarily held in a psychiatric ward because they exhibited suicidal and/or homicidal behavior. At night the student kept having suicidal thoughts and found a bottle of pills; she doesn’t remember what type of pills they were. She took a handful of these pills, and recounted, “Right after I took the pills I immediately regretted it… I woke my mom up and told her… she took me to the hospital…from there I was on a 5150.” Most people who survive a suicide attempt say they regret it. All nineteen survivors of jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge say “the millisecond my hands left the rail, it was an instant regret.”
Another anonymous student has attempted suicide twice this school year because he felt as if life had no point. He started to cut his left wrist during both attempts, but stopped himself. “I stopped not because I was afraid of dying but because I was afraid of dying without having done anything with my life.” If you only help one person, you’ve done something. For someone to know that they aren’t alone in this fight could just save them. This student’s life could have been lost, yet he chose to push on, to try and help other people. Instead of permanently escaping his problems, he chose to face them, conquer them, and use his experiences to empathize with others.
As a friend, it is very important to make others feel loved and accepted. If your friend has exhibited symptoms of depression and/or suicidal tendencies, offer them an ear and make sure you tell them that they aren’t a burden. Make sure they realize that they are loved, that they would be sorely missed if they were gone. If their problems seem to keep growing, if they keep leaning towards suicide, defer to an adult or a licensed professional. There is hope.
Suicide is a permanent solution to a temporary problem. Any problem is fixable, and you are not alone. There are students and adults that are ready to listen. Kevin Briggs, a California Highway Patrol officer who has talked people down from jumping off the Golden Gate Bridge says, “If you’re close with your parents talk to them, they care, or talk to a teacher, school counselor, or a close friend.” If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts call 1-800-273-8255. It is always darkest before the dawn.