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Mental Health in Pre-teens & Teens in the Last Decade

A friend of mine recently lost her family member to suicide. I met him once and he was a sweet, quiet kid.  He was the ripe age of 15 when he passed. It was the end of summer and school was about to start up. When I heard the news, my heart broke over the turmoil he must have felt, and my mommy-heart hurt as this is a parent’s and family member’s worse nightmare.

I keep thinking about him, his family members and his friends.  I pray for them and I just sit and bawl.  It’s so horrific.  And I think, if I am so upset, how must they feel? Then, I cry some more.

Yesterday, I opened my Facebook account to see an article posted on my newsfeed.  The Christian Post article was based on a study done by the CDC regarding the rate of suicide having tripled in kids ranging from 10-14. Ten to fourteen?? How is this possible?

The report’s co-author, Sally Curtin, said during an interview with NPR, “Not only is suicide trending upward, but the pace of increase is actually accelerating.” The pace is accelerating.  It was really disturbing and heart-wrenching to read. It scares me more than anything. The director of the National Action Alliance for Suicide Prevention, Colleen Car, was quoted saying, “It is important to recognize that suicide is not caused by one single factor but instead a range of factors that include mental health conditions, but also include important situational factors that many of us will experience in a lifetime- including social, physical, emotional or financial issues.”

I’m a mother. I’m an aunt.  I serve in a youth group ministry at my church.  I do not want to experience this loss so close to home.  It is very scary. How do we prevent this from happening to children who just don’t feel like life will get any better? Well, we tell them how loved by God they are, if we meet them before it’s too late. Unfortunately, many times we have no idea these devastating thoughts are going through their minds. How can we really know those close to us are hurting like that? This pre-teen & adolescent age is hard. It can be hard for them to articulate what they’re feeling or thinking.  Sometimes they refuse to talk about it.

God tells me to love, love, love all the kids I come across and to speak life into them every chance I get. Not so they become conceited but so they know their worth and so they see how amazing they are through the eyes of other people. When I have conversations with them I will remember verses like Proverbs 15:28 that read, “The heart of the godly thinks carefully before speaking.”

Lord, help pre-teens & teenagers & us grown people to think carefully before we speak. This is one way we can help and show compassion to those around us. Lord, give us wisdom.

Proverbs 17:27 states, “He who restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a calm spirit is a man of understanding.” If we get frustrated, Lord, help us & remind us to be careful with our words so that we don’t add to the pain other people may already be feeling.

There are so many proverbs that we can glean wisdom from. Here’s another one that I love.  Proverbs 18:21 “The tongue has the power of life and death, and those who love it will eat its fruit.” Our words and our tone of voice matters more than we realize. Please join me in praying that the rate of suicide in kids will decline and that more children will come to know how long, how wide, how deep and how high the love of God is for them.

I can’t pinpoint exactly why suicide is on the rise in children– I want to blame it on social media, but I know it’s not merely one thing like Colleen Car said.  It’s a lot of things compounded together.  I know that if we all loved more, shared each other’s burdens more, didn’t turn away from people when they really needed support and if more kids spoke kindness to each other instead of harping on saying cruel things, their self-esteem would improve.  I believe if more kids had their own personal relationship with God, that this relationship would help them through the hard times and give them hope.

As a mom, what I’m seeing on the news and in articles like the one I mentioned, scares me. I want to protect my daughter. I worry about other people convincing her that lies are the truth. It’s hard when she is in school all day and I don’t know firsthand what people are saying to her or what she may be saying to them.  My love for her fuels my God-given determination to keep finding ways to breath life into her, to keep teaching her what compassion looks like so she will be careful with her words and build others up. God will help us find strength to be the light in the darkness when it gets hard for the kids around us that need encouragement and support. This topic is hard but I know He will give us the strength to push through and continue to love the kids around us as well as those of us who are grown.

Please pray wholeheartedly for those who have lost loved ones to suicide and pray that God will use us to help people who are struggling with hurts done to them. There are so many big and seemingly small ways we can do this.

God bless you and give you strength during times of sadness. Hope comes in the morning.